Offense or Defense

In sports, players all have their positions. It’s the same in life. We all have roles to play. Some we learn and some we just fall into based on our natural talents.

Super Bowl Sunday at our house is no exception, it’s a team effort. The boys all get on the couch, Liam and Dylan on one cushion and Matthew, as the more experienced player, commands his own cushion or the big brown chair. I am official chef and coordinator of meal time. Brian is the coach and keeper of the remote. As game time approaches, all players enthusiastically get in their respective positions. When it comes time to eat, the boys perform as well as any professional athlete. And the older they get the more seasoned they become, which translates to huge grocery bills!

It’s tradition to serve chicken wings on Super Bowl Sunday, and this is not the day to make a new play, so I stick to the game book. This year I’m trying an Asian twist. Let’s see what my team thinks…

Miso Glazed Chicken Wings

Ingredients

3 Tbsp yellow miso

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp fresh ginger, about 1” grated

2 Tbsp sugar

¼ cup vegetable oil

2 Tbsp sesame oil

¼ cup rice wine vinegar

2 Tbsp soy sauce

3-4 lbs chicken wings, split at joints, tips removed

Method

In a large mixing bowl whisk together the first eight ingredients.

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Toss chicken wings into miso marinade and toss well to coat. Refrigerate overnight or for up to two hours.

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Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and place a baking rack on top.

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Place the wings on the baking rack. Roast in oven until caramelized and chicken is cooked through, about 45 minutes depending on the size of the chicken wings.

Serve immediately or during halftime show.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “Awesome – did you soak these in something?”

Liam (age 5): “Love these chickens”

Dylan (age 5): “These rock!”

Score!

A Day on the Lake

Ever wonder what it would be like to live on a lake? Awaking each morning to a picturesque view out your bedroom window would probably feel like being on a perpetual vacation. To celebrate the end of summer we spent the day at our friends’ lake house and it definitely felt like a mini holiday.

The first thing the boys did when they saw the canoe was run full speed ahead with their fishing gear and jump in. With Brian as captain they headed out, their little heads peaking up from oversized life jackets. From afar it looked like a Norman Rockwell painting. But I knew better. I strongly suspected Brian was dodging fishing hooks, swatting mosquitoes, and screaming at them not to rock the boat.

But sitting on the deck, drink in hand, enjoying the incredible view, it was a very sweet scene. Just as the boys made a b-line to the canoe, I made a b-line to the food. What can I say? We all have our priorities. My friend’s mother had made her delicious meatballs that were ready and waiting for the boys the minute their boat was docked. Legend has it the first time Matthew tried these meatballs he ate 7 in 7 minutes.

Six fish were caught that day and Brian only got one hook in his hand!

Asian Meatballs w/Carrot Noodles (recipe inspired by Lyn’s Mom)

Ingredients

For the meatballs:

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 Tbsp ginger, grated

¼ cup scallions, finely chopped

2 Tbsp soy sauce, low sodium

2 Tbsp brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp sesame oil

¼ tsp salt

½ cup Panko breadcrumbs

1 lb. ground turkey (or chicken, or beef)

Teriyaki sauce, for drizzling

Sesame seeds, optional

For the carrots:

4 large carrots, peeled

2 tsp sesame oil

Salt & pepper

1 Tbsp teriyaki sauce

Method:

For the meatballs:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper for easy clean-up, or lightly brush the baking sheet with cooking oil.

In a large mixing bowl combine the first eight ingredients.

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Add in the breadcrumbs and mix well. Then add the turkey to the breadcrumb mixture and mix until just combined. Using your hands is the best method for this step. Be careful not to over mix the meat.

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Form into small meatballs, about 1” diameter. Place on baking sheet and bake for approximately 20 minutes until cooked through.

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For the carrots:

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the carrots into long ribbons. Place on a baking sheet and toss with the sesame oil. Lightly season with salt and pepper.

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Place in oven for approximately 15 minutes until carrots lose some of their moisture. Remove from oven and toss with the teriyaki sauce.

Top the carrot noodles with meatballs. Drizzle with teriyaki sauce, sprinkle with sesame seeds and break out the chop sticks.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “Not the same, but it’s super good”

Liam (age 5): “It’s a little medium. At least I tried a carrot”

Dylan (age 5): “Eh, the flavor doesn’t taste good but I tried a carrot too”

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For more glimpses of life on the lake read my friend Lyn’s blog, PinotbyLyn

Where’s the Ghee?

It’s Season 5 on Top Chef Masters and the much anticipated episode of Restaurant Wars did not disappoint. Any fan of the show will tell you this is the week worth watching. The chefs get separated into two teams; each team must create a concept for a restaurant and have it up and running in less than 24 hours. It is usually a recipe for disaster and therefore makes for entertaining television.

Spoiler alert! The winning dish came from Chef Sang Yoon, Strip Loin w/Broccoli Two Ways, Puffed Tendon, and Black Bean Ghee, a twist on Beef with Broccoli. The judges loved his dish and he took home the win.  After the judge’s reaction, I had to find out what this Black Bean Ghee was all about. I started my recipe search on the Bravo website and ended up at Chowhound.com where I found a whole thread devoted to Chef Sang’s ghee, along with some amusing commentary on one of the judges’ hair. Apparently I was not the only one interested in the Black Bean Ghee, several people had already posted questions about it.

Eventually the mystery was solved; the recipe was discovered. Most of the ingredients were pretty obscure, doubanjian, Lao Gan Ma spicy chili crisp and black vinegar among them.  I was fairly confident I wasn’t going to see these on the shelves of our local Stop & Shop. In fact, they probably don’t even carry ghee, which would be a major component to leave out.

Although I could have gotten these ingredients with minimal effort, would my little tasters appreciate the dish more with, or without, them? Without a doubt, they wouldn’t have noticed, or cared. So I decided on making my own twist on Beef w/Broccoli and leaving the Black Bean Ghee to Chef Sang.

I’m no Top Chef Master, my kids call me a cooker, but I think I had a winning dish this week.

Beef and Broccoli One-way

Ingredients:

1 Head of Broccoli, cut into small florets

3 Tbsp Olive Oil

Coarse Sea Salt

 

1 lb. Ground beef (ground turkey or ground chicken)

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tbsp ginger, grated

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

1/3-cup rice wine vinegar

1/3-cup dark brown sugar

2 Tbsp cornstarch

2 Tbsp soy sauce

 

Directions:

For the broccoli:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the broccoli on the paper and coat well with the olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt and roast in oven until crispy and caramelized, about 25-30 minutes, turning once. Remove from oven and set aside.

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For the beef:

In a medium-mixing bowl, combine beef, garlic, ginger, salt and pepper. Do not overmix.

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Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add meat mixture and cook until no longer pink. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix rice vinegar, brown sugar, and cornstarch.

When meat is cooked through, drain excess fat, then add the vinegar mixture to the skillet and cook on high heat for about 5 minutes, until the sugar has caramelized. Add the soy sauce and roasted broccoli, and cook for another minute or so.

IMG_6092 Serve over rice or noodles. With chopsticks if you don’t mind a mess (and a fork just in case).

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 6): “How do you get good at these chopsticks?”

Liam (age 4): “I’ll only eat the broccoli”

Dylan (age 4): “More broccoli! I think I might eat all of this!”

Roasting the broccoli was obviously worth the extra effort… And for anyone interested in the Black Bean Ghee recipe see below. If you try it let me know how it goes!

Black Bean Ghee

2 ounces garlic, microplaned

2 ounces ginger, microplaned

1 ounce doubanjiang (Chinese bean sauce)

3 ounces Chinese sweet soy sauce

1 ounce black vinegar

1 pound ghee, melted

7 ounces black beans

5 ounces Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Crisp

 

 

The Cupboard is Bare

I had big plans to cook a few new dishes this week, but none of those ideas panned out. Between the ending of school and camp on the horizon there has been little time for cooking and even less time to stroll around the supermarket finding ingredients for a new recipe. There has barely been a minute to run out for the basics. Even as I am writing this I discovered there is only one more Starbucks K-cup! Might have to leave that for Brian, he is even crankier than me without his morning coffee, although he might not agree…

There has been a hilarious post by Jen Hatmaker going round the mom circuit that sums up this end of the school year frenzy in a nutshell. I must have read it about 10 times to keep my sense of humor and my sanity.

To make it even more challenging, the last days of school are all half days. And the half days are 35 minutes less than the normal half days. And the last day of school is literally 25 minutes! 25 MINUTES, what is the point? In conjunction with the half days school week, the local pool and beach are both open for the season. Which translates into a lot of packing and repacking beach bags, dressing and undressing three kids, sun blocking three kids (the worst!), throwing together lunch and dinners in a rush, getting them in and out of the car (a huge production) and of course let’s not forget all the LAUNDRY!  How many towels does a child need???

On top of it all, I just discovered that my kids all grew two inches and have barely any clothes for summer. So shopping for bathing suits trumped the trip to farmers market this week.

But after rummaging through the fridge I discovered I had some decent ingredients: a bag of frozen shrimp, a knob of ginger, some questionable scallions (remove the outside leaves and they are good as new), a shriveled old lime– and way in the back of the pantry, a forgotten can of coconut milk and some rice, The possibilities were endless but time wasn’t so I went simple.

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Ginger Shrimp with Coconut Rice

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated

1 clove garlic, minced

2 scallions, chopped

Juice of 1 old lime

2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

2 Tbsp soy sauce

2 Tbsp honey

1/4-cup olive oil (peanut oil or canola oil would probably be better but I had none)

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 lb. bag frozen shrimp, defrosted, peeled and deveined

12 wooden skewers (optional)

1 cup Jasmati rice

1 cup coconut milk

1 cup water

Pinch of salt

Directions:

For the shrimp

In a large bowl combine, ginger, garlic, scallions, lime juice, vinegar, soy sauce, honey, oil, salt and pepper, whisk until well blended. Add shrimp and let marinate for 20 minutes.

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Soak skewers in shallow pan with cold water while shrimp are marinating.

Preheat grill or a grill pan to high. Remove shrimp from marinade and thread onto skewers, do not overcrowd. Grill 2-3 minutes per side.

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For the rice

Cook rice according to package directions but replace 1 cup of water with coconut milk.

Serve shrimp over coconut rice.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 6): “Shrimp!”

Liam (age 4): “Shrimp!”

Dylan (age 4): “Shrimpie!”

And then total silence until they screamed for more. I think I even heard a please!

Gluten-free ain’t that bad

A few months ago my good friend told me that her son had been diagnosed with Celiac disease; a digestive disorder involving intolerance to gluten. That same weekend we were at a birthday party together and I remember thinking it was going to be a bummer that he wouldn’t be able to eat birthday cake. From a 4-year olds perspective that’s a pretty big deal. But no worries, she had gotten him a huge gluten-free chocolate cupcake instead. To be honest, it looked a lot better than the cake!

The other day, that same friend and I were hanging at the park, and I asked how the food situation was going. Surprisingly, she said that in some ways it was the best thing that had happened to her family. As a result of the diagnosis, the entire family was now eating better. And since she was doing more cooking it meant they were having less processed foods.

It got me thinking – what would I do if one of my own kids developed gluten intolerance? Beyond the birthday cake dilemma, what would the day-to-day menu be? How would we live without bagels???

We’ve been fortunate not to have to deal with any food allergies. I have little experience cooking gluten-free recipes but after doing some research, found tons of great options. It made me realize; going gluten-free really isn’t all that bad.

This recipe was highly recommended by a friend – she said it made salmon converts out of her kids; it couldn’t be easier and is entirely gluten-free.

Maple-Glazed Salmon

Ingredients:

1-cup Nama Shoyu soy sauce or tamari*

1 clove garlic, grated

1 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated

1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil

1-cup pure maple syrup

4 salmon fillets, well rinsed

  • tamari is a naturally fermented soy sauce

 

Directions:

Mix the soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, and maple syrup in a bowl.

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Spread the soy mixture over the fish in a baking dish. Marinate the fish in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight.

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Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Bake salmon for 15-18 minutes, until fish flakes easily with a fork.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 5): “Yeah, it’s good”

Dylan (age 4): “Yuck – fish is yucky –it swims in water”

Liam (age 4): “Yum – you don’t even have to TELL me to eat it!” “Dylan, it isn’t slimy”

A Yeah, a Yuck and a Yum – could be the lyrics of a new hit song!