Laksa: Ticket to Flavourtown!

I cannot say enough positive things about Laksa, despite only have a vague idea of what it is or where originated. According to this mildly confusing Wikipedia article, vagueness is a characteristic of Laksa, being something that seems to be a mish mash recipe from various cultures.

What I can tell you with certainty is this: it’s a soup, it’s a snap to make and it’s absolutely delicious!

JD and I were lucky enough to be introduced to this culinary wonder by our friends Ashley and John, recent transplants to our city and dedicated Sunday dinner attendees. Ashley gave me the essential directions and ingredients and I went to our local Asian market to procure what I needed. As Ashley so aptly put it “It’s one of those things where you buy the ingredients but then you have them so they just live in your fridge until you’re ready to make it again”.

Laksa is something you can make to  suit your own tastes: milder, spicier, adding in the  veggies and protein that you want. Shrimp? Sure! Noodles? Why not! It’s very flexible – however note that it not necessarily suitable for vegetarians – the Laksa paste I bought had shrimp listed in the ingredients.

One administrative item before we get on to the good part – there is now a “Print & PDF” button at the bottom of my posts. This nifty feature allows you to print posts and recipes (there a button you can check to remove images) or save them as .pdf files on your computer. Handy! I am testing this option so if there is something more convenient that you can suggest, please do so.

For the Laksa that JD and I ate, I decided on onions, mushrooms, and some leftover chicken. So slice a large onion, add to your large soup pot with some oil and cook over medium heat until onion softens, about 5 minutes. (On that note, I feel that I post so many onion photos that the alternate title for this blog could be “photos of sliced onions by Julia”.)

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Go ahead and slice some mushrooms –  I used basic white mushrooms but you could use any variety. Add them to the onions and cook, stirring, 2-3 more minutes. Giving them time to simmer in the soup is key according to Ashley: “it makes them into mushroomy balls of laksa flavoured deliciousness”.

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Add  a couple of tablespoons of black bean paste

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Add a teaspoon (to start) of  ground chilies in oil with garlic – the bottle of which is apparently impossible to photograph (apologies!)

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Add your Laksa paste – I could only find this in a single-pot making packet but Ashley assures me that a well-stocked Asian market will have jars of Laksa paste. If you have a packet, add it all. If you have a jar, start with 3-4 tbsp and add more to taste, if needed. She also suggests a 2:1 ratio of Laksa paste to black bean paste.

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Add one can of coconut milk and about 3 cups chicken broth

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Bring soup to a simmer, cover, and continue simmering for about 15 minutes until vegetables are soft and flavours have blended

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Add your protein of choice – I used leftover chicken from a roasted chicken I made earlier in the week but shrimp or tofu would also be great

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Ashley says “You want that delicious chili oil action happening”, as shown below

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Then you want to prep your herbs – this really takes the soup to the next level. Some delicious cilantro and thai basil

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Add your chopped cilantro and thai basil to your soup bowls with some fresh lime wedges

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If you’re crazy like we are, you can also add some additional chili paste to your soup bowl (also pour yourself a big glass of water)

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Ladle Laksa into bowls and enjoy!

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Laksa

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 large Onion, sliced thinly

2 cloves Garlic, minced (I forgot both the garlic and ginger and almost didn’t notice, so you can omit if you wish)

1 tsp Ginger, minced

1/2 lb Mushrooms, sliced

1 packet Laksa paste* or 3-4 TBSP of Laksa paste from a jar

2 tsp Ground chili with fried garlic paste* (less if you like things less spicy, omit if you want it mild)

2 TBSP Black bean paste* (also known as black bean sauce)

1 can Coconut milk

3 cups Chicken broth

2 cups Chicken, cooked and shredded, or protein of your choice

Chopped cilantro

Chopped thai basil

Fresh lime

* These ingredients can be picked up at your local Asian market.

  1. Slice onion and add to your large soup pot with some oil and cook over medium heat until onion softens, about 5 minutes.

  2. Slice your mushrooms, mince ginger and garlic and add to pot. Cook an additional 2-3 minutes.

  3. Add black bean paste, chili paste, Laksa paste, coconut milk, and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and continue cooking, covered, for about 15 minutes until flavours have combined. Add chicken and simmer 5 more minutes.

  4. Chop herbs and add to soup bowls. Add fresh lime wedges to bowl or serve alongside.

  5. Ladle soup into bowls and enjoy.

Shrimp Salsa for Hunan Hand Awareness Week

Hunan hand. It’s serious. So serious in fact that I will reference this scholarly medical definition. I am shocked that more bloggers have not spoken out about this condition sweeping through kitchens all over the world. Well, I am a hunan hand survivor and this is my story.

A few weeks ago I was spending a nice afternoon with my lovely friend Christine. We started talking about a sushi-making party she once threw, she reminded me that I had sung “Grandma Got Runover by a Reindeer” at Karaoke, and I recalled that JD and I had been 3 hours late to the party – because I had hunan hand.

HH (as I like to call it) is a chili burn that you get after handling hot peppers – the capsaicin from the peppers causes skin to have an [often intense] burning sensation. On that fateful night, JD and I had been making hot pepper jelly to give away for Christmas. I had minced over 1lb of jalapenos… the resulting HH caused us to try soaking my hand in milk, water, and even vodka! Let me tell you, it was a waste of perfectly good vodka. After lots of fretting (by me), drinking (by JD), and googling (by both), we reasoned that the only thing that could make HH go away was time. Hence being 3 hours late for the party, missing all the sushi making and arriving only in time for the sushi eating, and obviously, the karaoke.

Although I survived that incident relatively unscathed, I never looked at a hot pepper the same way again. Do yourself a favour – wear gloves, or at least remember to periodically rinse your hands in cold water.

This recipe comes from Gina at Skinnytaste and made a terrific summer meal – would probably also make a great party dip. Next time, I’m going to add some minced garlic.

Juice two limes – or the biggest lime you can find. This lime was so huge, I wondered if it was juicing with steroids

Chop your veggies and herbs

Add your chopped, cooked shrimp

Mix well and allow the flavours to combine in your fridge for a minimum of one hour

JD version: shrimp salsa taco with avocado and old white cheddar

Julia version: shrimp salsa lettuce wraps

Highly customizable – could add black beans, corn, other seafood…yum!

Hot Lobster Dip

Oh, hello. I didn’t see you there. Please allow me to set down my champagne and diamonds so I may tell you all about the hot lobster dip we just enjoyed. You simply must try it, darling.

The secret to why we were eating lobster dip on a Monday night is this: I bought the lobster (canned, frozen, and of excellent quality) at Costco for $14.99. A small price tag on a decadent pay off.

And let me tell you, this stuff is good. No, it isn’t exactly the same as fresh lobster – but then again, you don’t have to cook live lobsters and tear them apart, now do you? Plus, I consider myself something of a lifelong lobster connoisseur (LLC) so you can trust me. When I was growing up in Newfoundland, my parents had a cabin on the south side of  North Harbour – I kid you not – and they always seemed to have a friend who was a lobster fisherman who would supply us with fresh lobster. My dad always claimed that the colder the ocean, the sweeter the lobster meat and held the [possibly biased] opinion that Newfoundland lobster was the best. I have many fond memories of coming home from school and seeing my dad out on our back deck with a cooler and a kiddie pool filled with salt water and live lobsters. He would boil them on the back deck on a Coleman propane burner and then shell the lobsters for us so as not to bring the carnage into the house – what a gentleman, I know. He also loved to remind me that, at age 7 while riding in his truck, I announced “Daddy, lobsters couldn’t get any tastier if they tried!”

Historically (my dad also liked to remind us of this all the time), lobster was consider a poor man’s food and was generally considered by most as bottom feeders that were unfit to eat. Ah, how the times change.

This dip is rich but very delicious.

Cut your block of cream cheese into cubes

Add your melted garlic butter to the cream cheese

Add half a chopped onion, old bay seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, and sriracha sauce and mix well.

Thoroughly drain your lobster meat and chop roughly – look at those lobster knuckles and claws, yum!

Add lobster meat and shredded cheese and fold together gently until combined

Add mixture to a medium sized baking dish and bake for 30 minutes at 375 degrees or until hot and bubbly

Like so!

Get your “dippers” and go crazy! JD and I sure did…! Sweet yellow peppers, radishes, celery and rye toast.

Hot Lobster Dip

8oz block of cream cheese, softened

3 tbsp of butter melted with 2 cloves of minced garlic

1/2 a small onion, chopped

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp sriracha sauce or other hot sauce

1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning

1/2 cup shredded extra old white cheddar

320g can of frozen lobster meat, thawed and drained

Cut cream cheese into cubes. Melt butter and garlic and allow to simmer for 30 seconds. Add melted garlic butter, onion, sriracha, Worcestershire sauce, and Old Bay seasoning and stir to thoroughly combine. Roughly chop your drained lobster meat and gently fold lobster and the shredded cheese into the mixture. Spread into an oven-proof dish and bake for 30 minutes at 375 until dip is browned on top and bubbling. Enjoy with veggies, toasted bread, crackers, tortilla, or a spoon.

Marinated Grilled Zucchini

Your mother called. She wants you to eat more green vegetables. And if she is anything like my mother, she also wants you to clean your cutlery drawer, find out what your brother’s been up to, and teach her  more slang terms so she can impress her “peeps”.  Love you, mom!

On Friday, JD and I spend a completely lovely evening BBQing, drinking, and being silly with our friends K. and C. and their little girl, MJ. On the menu: sausages from the Italian butcher across the street, couscous salad with cherry tomatoes, grilled zucchini, and an impressive amount of beer and vodka.

This is a very quick side dish that can be put together and cooked in under 15 minutes. It also makes a nice alternative to a plain jane salad. I am not a lover of giant bowls of lettuce + assorted diced vegetables dug from the bowels of the refrigerator so I’m always looking for different ways to get veggies in. Plus, grilling things over open flames is really fun.

Marinated Grilled Zucchini

Serves 4 as a side dish

2 large zucchini, cut into 1/2″ pieces

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp lemon juice

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp black pepper

a pinch of salt

I like to slice my zucchini on the diagonal because I am quite fancy, really.

Mix together all your ingredients and toss with zucchini. Let marinate about 5-10 minutes (although this is optional).

Grill about 1 minute per side over medium high heat – or better yet, have someone do it for you! Credit here goes to our friend, C.

Enjoy! This is the gluten-free, low carb version for me….(I also ate many more tomatoes and zucchinis than shown)…

And here’s the JD version with brown rice couscous salad included. All accounts stated that the couscous was pretty delicious – we used this garlic and olive oil kind.

All in all a great evening with some great friends – hopefully soon to be repeated. JD and I have been lucky to learn a lot about parenting from K. and C. They even let us babysit their little girl when she was only 8 hours old – they were in the next room – but it was still an experience I won’t soon forget. Happy Mother’s day to my dear friend K. – I am sure your day will be filled with cuddles and giggles!

From left: me, K., and Miss MJ

The Hot & Spicy Weekend: Homemade Thai Red Curry

Sometimes you want to come home from work, strip down to your unmentionables, pour yourself a stiff drink, and eat an astonishing amount of Thai food.

Don’t let me frighten you away! The actual culinary skill involved for this homemade Thai Red Curry is very little: can you make a blender drink? You can make this. I will admit, though, that assembling the ingredients can be a bit piddly. But that’s ok – one trip to a decently stock Asian market should have you ready to go. I first made this dish while I was at home in Newfoundland visiting my family –  if I could track down the ingredients in the land of Fish n Chips, I’d wager you can find them where you are, too.

This recipe is a mish-mash of dozens I have read. I can’t make any guarantees towards authenticity but it is delicious.

Thai Red Curry Chicken and Veggies

For the red curry paste:

15-20 dried red chilis, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes (I used 20)

1 shallot, chopped, or 1/4 cup of red onion, chopped

1/2 a red pepper, chopped

2 stalks fresh lemongrass, chopped (tender parts only – remove the outer tough layer) or 3 TBSP frozen sliced lemongrass

5 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tbsp kaffir lime leaves (often sold frozen in a package – they look like large, lime scented bay leaves) or substitute the zest of 2 limes

3 tsp red chili sauce, such as sriracha

2 thai bird’s eye chilis (optional – only if you like things VERY spicy)

One 2-inch piece of galangal or ginger, sliced

1 tbsp of chopped fresh coriander (aka cilantro) stems

2 tbsp tomato paste

2 tbsp fish sauce

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp sugar or equivalent amount of sweetner of your choice

2 tbsp chili powder

3 tbsp fresh lime juice

3 tbsp coconut milk (optional – if you have trouble pureeing)

For the assembly:

1 large can of coconut milk (unsweetened)

1 small can of bamboo shoots, drained and rinsed

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs cut into bite sized pieces (use instead: beef, shrimp, or tofu)

Assorted veggies: eggplant, green beans, red pepper (optional)

For Serving:

Steamed rice

Lime wedges

First, mix yourself a cocktail. Next, lay out everything you will need

Soak your dried chilis in hot water. Doesn’t that look like the devil’s hot tub? Yikes. Anyway, while your chilis are soaking, chop your other ingredients.

Clockwise from top – your soaked red chilis, shallot, garlic, galangal (or ginger), lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves (or zest of 2 limes), thai bird’s eye chilis (optional), chopped coriander (aka cilantro) stems.

Stuff everything into your magic bullet cup (if you’re me ) – or add everything to your blender. If the lime juice/fish sauce/soy sauce is not enough liquid to get things moving, add a few tbsp of your coconut milk.

Why, hello! It’s your new friend, Thai Red Curry paste! Now…please taste a miniscule amount. Literally dip your pinkie finger in and taste this tiniest bit because this is the concentrated paste and as such, it is very, very strong. Adjust as necessary – if you can’t taste the lemongrass, add more. If you find it too sour, add more sugar or tomato paste. Not savoury enough? Add a little more soy sauce or some salt. Is it very spicy? Consider that the coconut milk will calm that. Way, way, way too spicy for you? Add a little more lime juice to calm the heat.

The next step is to sautée your chicken (or whatever protein you wish) just until no longer pink in the middle. About 3-4 minutes per side over medium heat. Set aside.

Now add a little oil to your pan along with 2 to 4 tbsp of your curry paste and apologize for your terrible photo (I’m sorry). For a milder curry, use 2 tbsp of paste; if you like it spicy like we do, use 4 tbsp. The point of this awful photo is to show you that as you cook your red curry paste, it will begin to darken and become fragrant. At this point, add your coconut milk and stir until combined. Then add your veggies (if using), bamboo shoots, and chicken and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes until veggies are tender and your whole kitchen is engulfed in the smell of Thai food. Serve over steamed rice with lime wedges as a garnish.

Now, eat a ridiculous amount and enjoy. Happy weekend!

P.s. But Julia, you didn’t say what to do with all my leftover curry paste? Leftover red curry paste can be portioned out in tbsp into plastic sandwich bags or containers and frozen for future use. Just defrost your portion of curry paste and proceed with the recipe. A little work upfront makes a lot of lazy weekend suppers, huh?

Cod Chowder with Bacon and Fresh Dill

I lied. This is actually Cod Chowder with Bacon, Fresh Dill and crab and white wine and whatever other delicious bits you can dream up. But that long of a title is somewhat unappealing, no?  This is one of those weeknight dinners that is actually incredibly fast to make (fish cooks in a snap, dontcha know!) and tastes so decadent you’d think it was already the weekend.

This recipe is loosely based on my mother’s famous Cod Chower and is high adaptable for any kind of white fish. You could also add salmon if you like, or some shrimp.

If you can get your hands on fish stock and some fresh dill, use them! Otherwise chicken stock and dried dill will do fine.

Cod Chowder with Bacon and Fresh Dill, and Crab

5 rashers of bacon, cooked and crumbled

1 medium onion, diced

2 medium carrots, diced

2 cups fish stock or chicken stock

2 cups heavy cream

1.5 lbs cod fillets cut into bite size pieces

1 tbsp fresh dill, finely minced – or 1 tsp dried dill

1 small can real crab meat, drained

1/2 cu very dry white wine (optional)

salt and pepper, to taste

First, cook bacon until medium crispy, drain on paper towels and crumble. Reserve the bacon grease for cooking your veggies. Set bacon aside for later. Also it’s okay if you eat a little of the bacon because you are the cook and, quite frankly, you are hungry.

Next, sautée the vegetables you have so nicely diced in the bacon grease. Let them cook over medium heat until beginning to brown, about 6 to 8 minutes.

Measure your stock and add to your pot…

And do the same with your cream. Bring to a gentle simmer and continue simmering for 10 minutes until vegetables are quite tender.

While your pot is simmering away, prepare your fish and mince your dill. Add the fish and dill to your pot, cover, and let simmer about 15 minutes or until fish is cooked through. My pieces are slightly larger than bite-size. What can I say, JD has a big mouth…!

Add your crab and wine, if using, along with crumbled bacon, salt, and pepper to taste. Stir gently to combine and allow to simmer 15 minutes longer so that flavours can combine.

Serve with a glass of chilled white wine and enjoy!

Liam’s Mancave Chili

Well, that was certainly a long hiatus! Believe me, a lot longer than I expected. I am just getting over an unbelievable bout of bacterial bronchitis (say that 5 times fast). The good news is that I have a back-log of recipes to post. I also have a lovely new header (see?) thanks to the fabulously talented Miss Andrea Q., whose kindness I hope to repay in cookies. ‘Cause, you know, you can’t mail chili…

On to the good stuff…

I named this chili after two Liams: my brother Liam, and my faithful taste-tester, house-sitter and overall wacky guy, our good friend Liam. My brother had chatted with me recently about wanting to make a chili that was elevated to new heights of meaty-deliciousness. And had bacon. While I didn’t have bacon on hand while I was concocting this chili, I did have leftover pulled pork. I think it gives another layer of meaty yumminess to the chili. Plus it was a great way to use the last of the pulled pork. Our friend Liam was lovely enough to pop by our house and take home some of what turned out to be a massive pot of chili. He declared it “Mantastic”.

Please be warned: this is no veggie lover’s delight. I did not follow the “I need to use up X vegetables – let’s make chili!” train of thought. Veggie chili is good, don’t get me wrong, it just wasn’t right for the Liams in my life.

One more thing, may I suggest finding a butcher who makes sausages? In my experience, buying directly from a butcher means amazing flavour with very little or no fillers/additives. This means no wheat, excessive fat, etc.. just meaty goodness.

Liam’s Mancave Chili

Serves 6 to 8

1 lb ground Beef

1 lb hot Italian Sausage, removed from casings

1 large red onion, chopped

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped

1 28oz can crushed tomatoes

1 small can black beans, drained and rinsed thoroughly

1.5 cups leftover pulled pork (optional) or

5 thick slices bacon, cooked until lightly crisped, drained and chopped (optional)

Juice of 1/2 a lime

1 tsp salt (optional)

1 packet stevia or 1 tsp sugar (or sweetener of your choice – brings out the flavour of the tomatoes)

3 tbsp chili powder

1 tbsp garlic powder (or granulated garlic)

1 tbsp cumin

1 to 2 tsp cayenne pepper (omit if you don’t like heat)

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

In a large pot or dutch oven, brown ground beef and sausage (removed from casing) over medium heat until no longer pink. Drain off all but 1 tsp of fat and set aside.

Add your chopped red onions and cook over medium-low heat until onions begin to caramelize, about 10 minutes. This step will add some sweetness to your chili.

Once onions have begin to caramelize, add your minced garlic and cook another 1-2 minutes until garlic is very fragrant.

I recommend roasted red peppers that have been packed in water, NOT vinegar.

Add your drained and chopped red peppers to your chili pot.

Add your can of crushed tomatoes and your black beans. At this point, you can also return the ground beef/sausage mixture to the pot along with any leftover pulled pork you may have (or bacon if you’re really feeling crazy).

Add your lime juice and spices. Allow to simmer one hour and then taste. Adjust seasonings if it’s not how you like it. More lime juice will temper your chili if it’s too hot. You may need to add salt but I prefer to use little to none, if possible. A couple of drops of liquid smoke might be good at this point, too. After your adjust the seasonings, you can serve the chili if pressed for time or continue to simmer for another hour (my preference).

Served topped with your favorite add-ons. JD’s is shown here with some shredded Monterey Jack cheese and a side of baked tortilla chips I made in the oven. I prefer mine plain with some chopped green onions on top and maybe a little sour cream.

Enjoy!

Chicken Soup with Chicken-Chickpea Dumplings

Sometimes you want to be comforted by your meals. In winter, this often means reaching for another serving of a cheesy casserole or curling up on a stormy day with a big plate of nachos – and there is nothing wrong with that, on occasion.

Making this recipe only further convinced me that there are gratifying, stomach-filling recipes that fit the comfort bill without necessarily bogging you down under thousands of calories.

I came across this recipe purely by accident and found it to be both delicious and very filling – not to mention being egg free, dairy free, low carb and just good for what ails you! It was so filling, in fact, that I could not finished the bowl above. I fed this soup to quite a few friends who dropped by for a visit and 4 dumplings were an average sized portion, 6 for a very hungry person.

Try not to skip the fresh herbs, they really elevate the soup to another level.

Oh, and my recipe is loosely based on this one. I actually found the dumplings to be a bit too dense for my taste. The recipe below will have my adjustments so they are a little more tender.

To make the dumplings, you will need chickpea flour. Before you groan about hunting down an unusual ingredient, let me tell you: chickpea flour is super easy to make. You simply whizz dried chickpeas in your food processor/blender/coffee grinder/whatever. I used a magic bullet and it worked a treat, my only complaint being that it was so loud!  Dried chickpeas can be found at your local grocery store, health food store or bulk store.

Chicken and Chickpea Dumplings (Gundi) in Chicken Soup

Adapted from Encyclopedia of Jewish Food by Gil Marks

Dumplings:

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1.5 cups chickpea flour 
  • 2 medium yellow onions, grated
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil or 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • About 1 teaspoon salt
  • About 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • About 2 tablespoons water

Soup:

  •  2 quarts/boxes chicken broth
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground tumeric
  • Salt to taste
  • Assorted chopped fresh herbs: any combination of basil, parsley and cilantro

1. In a medium bowl, combine all the meatball ingredients, adding enough water to form a mixture that is smooth but not sticky. Refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours. Using moistened hands, shape into smooth 1-inch balls, about the size of golf balls.

2. In a large pot, add the olivie oil, sliced onions and celerey and cook until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the chicken broth to  lemon juice, turmeric, and salt and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the gundi, cover, and simmer until the gundi are tender, about 40 minutes.

3. Add some chopped fresh herbs to your soup bowl. Spoon dumplings and broth over herbs and serve.

Add chickpea flour (easy to make at home!) and  grated onions

Spices and fresh herbs flavour the dumplings and the soup

Add your ground chicken and blend thoroughly with your impeccably clean hands

Make sure your mixture is well blended – it will be dense

Form your chilled mixture into balls – ready for a long simmer in hot broth

Add your fresh herbs and serve

Pulled Pork

Pulled pork is causing lips to smack all over town these days and with good reason. It’s easy to prepare, relatively inexpensive and just plain good. I have been using the same recipe for years now and was relieved in a big way when I realized it is super low-carb and candida diet friendly. Yay!

I should confess right now that my recipe for pulled pork is of the spiced, intensely flavorful variety also called carnitas (aka Mexican pulled pork). It is not the BBQ sauce coated sweet variety (also good, just too sugary for me).

I first made pulled pork for one of JD’s birthday parties a few years ago. I wanted something that would feed lots of bellies but that wouldn’t be too fussy. Pulled Pork Taco Party (or PPTP) became a hit with our friends. I set up the crock pot full of pulled pork and as many toppings as I can think of buffet-style and it’s always a hit. I have been asked for this recipe more times than I care to count….so why not share with everyone?

One word of advice: start early. The recipe yields best results when you cook it on low for 8-10 hours. The low/slow method of cooking allows the collagen to melt down and the pork to become super tender whereupon you can shred it with two forks or pull it apart with your hands.

I often put this recipe in the crock pot on a weekend day when I know I’ll be close to home. I have even done it overnight, which is also nice since you wake up with perfectly cooked pork roast and you can shred and refrigerate until needed.

Pulled Pork aka Carnitas

2 tsp salt

1 tbsp garlic powder

1 tbsp ground cumin

1-1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano

1-1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1 tbsp chili powder

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 (4 pound) boneless pork shoulder roast

2 bay leaves

2 cups chicken broth (or other broth)

1 can green chilis (optional – I occasionally add these just to shake things up)

1 packet stevia (or  1 tbsp brown sugar, or honey – optional)

1. If there is a rind of skin and fat on your pork roast, remove as much of it as you can with a sharp knife and discard.

2. Mix your spices together in a bowl.

3. Rub spices into your pork roast, taking care to rub them into any nooks and crannies.

4. Place your bay leaves in the bottom of your slow cooker. Carefully lay pork roast on top.

5. Carefully pour your broth alongside the pork roast, taking care not to wash off the spices.

6. Set your slow cooker to its low setting and allow pork to cook for 8-10 hours, turning it over halfway. Check after 8 hours to see if it is sufficiently tender.

7. Remove pork from slow cooker, shred with two forks or your impeccably clean hands.

8. Skim fat off your braising liquid and discard bay leaves. Stir in one can of green chilies (optional) and stevia. At this point you can either boil this mixture down so it is a thicker sauce and season pork with it or you can add it to pork, as-is, and roast in a 350 degree oven so the pork gets little crispy bits and the sauce keeps the meat juicy (as pictured above).

9. Eat! In tacos, taco bowls (low carb), pulled pork omelets, sandwiches…

Get all your spices together – this may indeed be the most difficult part of this recipe

Pork shoulder yields the best pulled pork and it’s very budget-friendly, too!

After the rub-down

Into the slow cooker with some lovely broth

Meltingly tender…mmmm

A little crisping in the oven…

Pulled pork taco for JD

Pulled pork taco bowl for me – on a bed of shredded cabbage with lime juice

I actually made JD a pulled pork omelet for Sunday brunch today – served with a nice cold beer. He devoured in less time than it took me to whisk the eggs!

Enjoy.

Julia

Cabbage Rolls

I am a cabbage roll making novice. As such, I found these cabbage rolls to be good but not great. Maybe because I used cauliflower in place of rice for the filling. Yes, you did read that right and no I am not as crazy as I sound.

It occurred to me that maybe substituting brown rice for cauliflower make make the cabbage rolls more tender. That or maybe just a longer baking time in the oven will do the trick. I should say, in defense of cauliflower, that you can hardly detect that it’s cauliflower you’re eating and they are very low carb. Not to mention a great way to sneak vegetables into your diet. Still, I wonder if, made with brown rice, they would come out just a little bit more satisfying. Either way, JD ate two servings with great enthusiasm so I must be, at the very least, heading in the right direction.

As for the cauliflower, you can make ‘faux rice’ by grating a head of cauliflower with a cheese grater. Sounds crazy, I know, but it’s actually very quick and easy. I have made cauliflower fried rice this way and it was delicious. Something to try if you want to up your vegetable quotient.

After reading many unappealing recipes for cabbage rolls involving tomato soup, I took the basic elements and made up my own version to suit our tastes. Voila.

Cabbage Rolls

Service 4-6

For the filling:

  • 1 small green cabbage or 2 cups cooked and cooled brown rice
  • 1.5 lbs ground beef
  • 2 small onions, chopped
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small head cauliflower, grated with a cheese grater

For the Sauce:

  • 1 28oz can diced or crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • generous pinch cinnamon
  • 1 packet stevia or 1 tsp sugar or 1 tsp honey (no chemical sweeteners, please!)

1. Cut the core from the cabbage or do what I did and make deep cuts around the core so the leaves detach easily.

2. Submerge the cabbage in a pot of boiling water. Boil 5 minutes until outer leaves are tender, remove leaves and continue boiling and collecting leaves until you have a fair amount (this should not take the whole cabbage).

3. Using a sharp knife, remove the tough vein at the back of each cabbage leaf – this will make the rolling process a lot easier. Set leaves aside while you prepare your filling.

4.  Cook ground beef in a large pot, breaking up as you go, until no longer pink. Drain off fat and set aside.

5. If needed, add a small amount of olive oil to your pan. Add onion and stir until onion begins to brown, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and continue stirring until garlic is fragrant and soft, another 3 minutes.

6. Add grated cauliflower and continue cooking, stirring every so often, about 4 minutes more.

7. Add your seasonings and return ground beef to the pot, stir every to incorporate and taste. Adjust seasonings if necessary. Set aside to cool.

8. For the sauce, add your can of tomatoes, oregano, garlic, pepper, cinnamon and stevia to a large saucepan. Stir together and let simmer 15 minutes.

9. Assemble your cabbage rolls by spooning 2-3 tbsp of filling into each leaf (more if larger), folding sided in and rolling towards you (like a burrito!). Lay rolls seem side down in a large casserole dish.

10. Spoon sauce over cabbage rolls and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for one hour (you may want to cover with tin foil for the first 30 minutes).

Phew.. a 10 step recipe. I admit, it is fussier than your average dish but it’s certainly tasty. Cabbage rolls, I will revisit you. You will bend to my will next time!

Oh and I have a really, really yummy dinner in the works right now. Until tomorrow,

Julia