Saturday, January 31, 2009

Super Bowl Falafel Nibblers

Super Bowl
championship game of the National Football League (NFL)

Tomorrow is the 43rd
Super Bowl Sunday and this year it will be at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. It's a strength vs strength match up between Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals.

We have
Super Bowl Buffalo Chicken Wings and Healthy Super Bowl Falafel Nibblers in the works for the event. My Super Bowl Falafel Nibblers recipe is adapted from Guy Fieri's Falafel in Pita with Yogurt Sauce. When I first made this, I used red onions and added orange zest. This is my version and you might want to try it or to stick with Guy's original recipe which is also good. The falafel mixture will be sticky so chilling is an important step to make it easy to shape into balls. When frying, avoid crowding the falafel balls in the pan so it does not absorb too much oil. I also roll the falafel lightly in cornstarch prior to frying for a crunchy finish.

2 tablespoons canola oil
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
2 (14-ounce) cans chick peas, drained
1 egg
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
2 cups freshly chopped parsley leaves
3/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons cornstarch
oil for deep frying
your choice of Cucumber Ranch Dressing

Saute the garlic, red onions and the red bell peppers in 2 tablespoons oil. Cook until the onions are transparent.

Set aside 1/4 cup of the drained chick peas and place the rest in a food processor. Add an egg, red pepper flakes, ground cumin, salt and pepper and pulse to a coarse consistency. Add orange zest, flour, parsley and cilantro and pulse some more. Chop roughly the reserved chick peas and add to the mixture.

Transfer the mixture into a bowl and stir in the sauted red pepper-onion mixture. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill falafel at least 20 minutes. When you're ready to fry them, form falafel dough into balls and roll lightly in cornstarch.

Heat 1/2 inch of canola oil in a thick-bottom pan. When the oil is hot enough, add a couple of falafel balls and cook till lightly golden brown all over. Don't crowd the falafel into the pan. If the oil temperature drops too much, the falafel balls will be very oily. Drain on paper towels and serve right away with Cucumber Ranch Dressing.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Minimalist Grilled Fish

We went to the Asian store on the weekend and found Pacific Saury in the frozen section. It was our first time to find it so I quickly bought three packs to bring home.

Also known as mackerel pike or sanma (= autumn knife fish in Japanese) or kongchi (Korean), this fish is a highly sought after by Japanese, Russian, Korean and Taiwanese. It is a seasonal food in Japan and Korea. In the autumn months, starting with September, mackarel pike starts to accumulate a lot of fat in preparation for the cold winter. This is the best time to harvest them from the open seas. The fish is usually flash frozen as soon as it is caught to preserve its freshness.

Sanma is rich in DHA, an omega-3 fatty acids considered to be heart-healthy. Currently, the Mood Disorders Center at Baylor College of Medicine is studying if omega-3 fatty acids can make a difference in preventing mood swings in bipolar disorders. Some reports indicate a correlation between low levels of DHA in diet with Alzheimer’s disease. A recent study published in the scientific journal Cancer Letters suggests that dietary DHA can also suppress primary colon cancer tumors in mice.

In my experience, sanma is best prepared lightly salted then grilled/ broiled. I drizzle lemon juice over it and serve it with fresh, juicy tomatoes and cilantro. This is a minimalist approach but the fish has a clean taste and is really delicious this way! If you get the chance, I suggest you should give it a try. P.S. In Asia, fish is served with head and tail to symbolize good luck. If you prefer, you may trim off the head before grilling.

mackerel pike (gutted)

kosher salt

lemon slices

tomato slices


Lightly salt the thawed fish five minutes before grilling. Grill over charcoal or use an electric grill. When the fish is brown on one side and you can easily lift it without sticking, flip the fish over to cook the other side. Serve with lemon slices, tomatoes and cilantro.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

S.M.A.R.T. Goals and Tropical Fruit Salad

I know it’s already the 4th week of 2009 but over the weekend I was listening to a pastor from Seattle talk about setting S.M.A.R.T. goals. S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym for the type of goals that work. Here’s what each letter stands for: S: Specific,M: Measurable, A: Attainable, R: Realistic andT: Timely/Tangible.

You might be wondering how this relates to my food blog entry today. Well, lately, teen son and hubby have been complaining about needing more fiber in their diet. So, among the several personal goals I made for myself this year, one relates to the food I prepare for my family. For me, it’s challenging to consistently meet the “5 to 9 servings a day” of fruit and veggies. When I’m too busy, it’s so easy to slip up. So, one of my S.M.A.R.T. goals is to serve 5-9 servings of fruit and veggies at least 5 days a week. I think the following tips from About.com and WebMD will help keep me focused in the right direction.

WebMD lists 19 easy ways to get the recommended 9 servings a day.

A serving of fruit or vegetables can be a medium sized nectarine or ¼ cup dried fruit or ½ cup fresh fruit or ½ a grapefruit or ¼ cup cantaloupe or a dozen grapes or ½ cup chopped vegetables or 8 carrot sticks or ¾ cup fruit juice/ vegetable juice.

As a rule of thumb, about 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables every day can meet the quota.Making a fruit salad, tossing fruit into your breakfast, snacking on dried fruits, spooning up some soup, drinking your fruits and veggies, and having prepared fruits and vegetables ready to go in the fridge are just some practical tips at WebMD.

Here’s a recipe from WebMD that I tried. The Tropical Fruit Salad was simple, delicious and refreshing. This healthy treat is definitely a keeper!

20-ounce can pineapple chunks canned in juice

2 kiwi, peeled, halved and sliced

2 cups strawberry, quartered

1 large banana, sliced

1 papaya or mango, peeled and cubed (or 11-ounce can mandarin oranges, drained)

½ teaspoon finely grated lime zest or peel

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 ½ tablespoons honey

1/3 cup unsweetened or sweetened shredded coconut (optional)

Drain pineapple chunks, and set aside 1/4 cup of the pineapple juice in a 2 cup-measure. Put pineapple chunks, kiwi, strawberries, banana, and papaya or mango into large serving bowl. To the pineapple juice, add lime peel, lime juice and whisk together until nicely blended. Drizzle over the salad, and toss to coat the fruits well. Sprinkle coconut over the top before serving, if desired. Yield: About 7 cups.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Yummy One Minute Breakfast "Egg in a Cup"

Breakfasts used to be too stressful for me. Everyone's just rushing to get ready to leave for school or work. My son's favorite breakfast is sunny side-up with turkey bacon and rice. When I'm running late, breakfast is cereal, toaster strudel, poptarts, breakfast bars, granola or packaged instant oatmeal --very convenient but most of the time, too sweet! Lately, I've also been making these Yummy One Minute Breakfast "Egg in a Cup". I do this in the microwave and it's quick, flavorful, pretty and clean-up is a breeze--you can even serve this as part of a brunch buffet! Depending on your microwave settings, it can turn out almost like poached egg/"over easy" to "over well". Eggs are cheap and packed with nutrients (proteins; vitamins A, D,E,K; minerals and carotenoids). Yolks have both omega-3 fatty acids and cholesterol so a maximum of 2 yolks per week is recommended for those with high cholesterol.

If possible, don't let your child skip this important meal of the day! There are studies that show kids perfom significantly better in school when they eat breakfast. Kids are more alert and score better in math, reading, and other standardized test scores. They behave better in class and are less prone to discipline problems. You might wish to look at the impact of school breakfast on health and learning at Sodex Foundation.

Please take note: when you make this recipe just make sure you prick the egg yolk with a fork before microwaving. Otherwise, you'll have a really, messy microwave!

Here's the recipe for Yummy One Minute Breakfast "Egg in a Cup":
1 egg
a sprinkle of Montreal seasoning or salt and pepper to taste
any finely diced veggies or herbs of choice (I used red bell pepper and green onions)
any kind of cheese (optional)

Crack an egg into a silicon baking cup. PRICK THE EGG YOLK with a fork. Add whatever seasoning, diced veggies and herbs and/or cheese of your choice (you can also add the cheese later after microwaving) --- get creative, make it as simple or as complex as you wish! Microwave for 1 minute to 1.5 minutes depending on your microwave power settings which vary according to model/manufacturer. You may have to test what works for you. We personally prefer eggs with yolk slightly runny but the white almost fully set like the consistency of soft tofu.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Crispy Veggie Spring Rolls

Fried vegetable spring rolls are stuffed savory pastries filled with julienned vegetables. The wrapper is made of wheat flour,salt and water. In Asia, there are many versions of fried veggie spring rolls. It is believed that the Chinese invented spring rolls (chunjuan/ lunpia) and Chinese immigrants from the Fujian province of China brought the recipe to Japan and Southeast Asia where they settled in Singapore, Malaysia, Philipines, Thailand and Indonesia. Traditional chinese veggie spring rolls have shredded carrots, cabbage, mushrooms and bamboo shoots. Japanese "harumaki" (haru=spring; maki=rolls) consist of bean sprouts, cellophane noodles, boiled strips of bamboo shoots and shitake mushrooms seasoned with grated ginger, sake, soy sauce, sesame oil and sugar. Indonesian veggie spring rolls (loempia) have cabbage, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, carrots, garlic and onion and depending on who is preparing it, the filling is seasoned with kecap manis (a type of sweet soy sauce), shrimp paste and sambal olek (made of chilis, sugar and salt). Filipino veggie spring rolls (lumpia) are made of shredded carrots, bean sprouts, cabbage, sweet potato, green beans and served with a vinegar dipping sauce with chopped onions, garlic and bird's eye chilis. At almost every Asian get-together, fried or fresh spring rolls are served as a side dish. Kids and adults alike love the crispy fried spring rolls. My friend Yoli makes one of the best fried veggie spring rolls. She uses tofu, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, glass noodles and jicama. She sautés each veggie separately with garlic and onions then seasons and combines everything together before neatly wrapping the spring roll and serving it with a sweet and tangy dipping sauce on the side. My version involves sautéing all the veggies together and adding finely chopped honey roasted peanuts to give a sweet and nutty contrast to the veggies. P.S. Please don't be intimidated by all the shredded veggies. You can buy pre-shredded veggies or shred the veggies in just five minutes with a veggie shredder. I personally use a safe and easy to clean electric shredder. P.P.S. If you are gluten intolerant, you might try preparing the filling and wrapping it in rice paper made of tapioca starch and rice flour or you may want to wrap the filling in leaf lettuce and avoid the spring roll wrapper completely. It will still be crispy but not fried.

1 Tbsp canola oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 c sweet onions, thinly sliced
1/2 c shredded carrots
1/2 c shredded sweet potato
1/2 c shredded acorn squash
1 c shredded cabbage
2 Tbsp minced green onions
salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 c shredded jicama
1 bunch leaf lettuce
1/2 c finely chopped Planters honey roasted peanuts
1 beaten egg yolk
oil for deep-frying


Heat canola oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add minced garlic and onions and allow the onions to caramelize. Add all the veggies (except jicama) to the pan and saute over high heat for 3 minutes. Don't overcook veggies, they should still be crunchy. Add green onions and season with salt and black pepper. Add jicama, mix throroughly and cook 1 minute longer then turn off heat. There is a frying step later so avoid overcooking the veggies. Transfer to a bowl and let the veggie filling cool down to room temperature.

Thaw frozen spring roll wrapper to room temperature. Separate a spring roll wrapper and place on a plate. Lay a lettuce leaf in the center of the spring roll wrapper. Spoon 2 heaping Tbsp of filling on top of the leaf and sprinkle about 1/2 tsp chopped honey roasted peanuts over the filling. Fold the bottom of the spring roll wrapper over the filling, fold in the sides and roll up. Seal the flap with the beaten egg yolk.

Deep fry spring rolls for 3-4 minutes till golden brown. Drain excess oil on paper towels. Serve while piping hot and crispy.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Pizza Rustica at White Oak Station Local Market

We were exploring these shops close to the Promenade at Rogers, Arkansas and found this great place that sells sandwiches, pizzas, gelato, fudge, fresh meats, seafoods and fresh produce. The Pinnacle Station Local Market at 2000 Promenade Blvd, Rogers, Arkansas had lots of gourmet cheeses, an assortment of prepared sauces and dressing, breads, candies, chocolates, exotic spices, european butter such as Pulgra butter, keffir beverages, one of a kind soybean sheets, anchovies and anchovy paste, pastas, pastries, caramel apples, petit fours, tiramisu, wines, creme brulee, chocolate dipped strawberried, gluten-free crackers, cute but functional kitchenware, pretty japanese tea kettles, exotic placemats and much more. You could also order italian ice cream /gelato or a variety of filling sandwiches from the deli or make your
own salad from the fresh salad bar and dine-in till 9 p.m. The sandwishes were just $4.79-$7.97. They also had Pizza Rustica, a pizza chain established on South Beach in 1996. We tried the Chicken Parmesan and Tomato Basil pizzas and their slushies. We loved the ambiance of the place and the food. The place was cozy and relaxing and the food was good!