Biryani with Pineapple & Bacon Chicken Sausage

Every time my hubby and I go to Trader Joe’s, we pick up something new to try. Our latest product testing session led us to Briyani, which has rice, onions, peas, red pepper, apples, raisins, and spices.biryaniricedish

It is slightly spicy, curry-y and fat free. The delightful little peas retain their bite when the Biryani is cooked on a stovetop. I decided to pair the rice dish with slices of smoked chicken sausage and added an onion, garlic, Sri Racha, and a steamer package of broccoli and cauliflower florets for more flavor and texture.  Some cilantro sprinkled on just before serving adds some extra freshness.  Grab a mint when you’re done, though!

I made this as a quick weeknight meal in one pan. It is so simple to make, I can lay it all out in one paragraph:

In a large pan, place cauliflower and broccoli florets and add 1/4 c water, then cover to steam for a few minutes until fork-tender. Add half of a chopped onion and cook until almost transluscent. Add a teaspoon of minced garlic, 2 tbsp Sri Racha and toss in the sliced sausage, stirring occasionally until heated through. Add the bag of Biryani. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro.  Serves 4.

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Spring rolls!

Everyone in my office is watching their weight, so when we planned out latest potluck, I had a hard time thinking of something portable, healthy and delicious.  I came across this recipe on thekitchn.com for Vietnamese Spring Rolls and decided to make some for my coworkers to indulge in without feeling guilty.  They were instantly a hit among my fellow office peeps.  Check out the link for the recipe.  Below are some of the photos I took of the process and some tips on getting those sticky wrappers to roll up pretty easily. 

I love all the colorful veggies that go into these.  As for my prep, I cut the cucumber and carrot into little sticks.  Slice thinly the radish.  I like to separate the various greens.  The recipe linked above includes red bell pepper, but I opted not to use it.  I added Thai basil leaves and Romaine leaves with the ribs removed.

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To marinate/season the veggies, you will use 1 part rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and 2 parts fish sauce to make up the seasoning for the carrots, radish and cucumber. 

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There was a pretty big selection of noodles at my local shop.  I picked these noodles based on their cool packaging.  Noodles will be placed into hot water for several minutes to soften. 

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I got too excited and forgot to take a photo of the rice paper wrappers.  They are hard, translucent, thin discs, which soften in hot water after a few seconds.  Only place the wrappers in the water one at a time, otherwise they will stick together and are difficult to separate.

Once the wrappers are softened, lay the wrapper gently onto a cutting board.  If the wrapper sticks to itself, dip into the warm water for a moment and it will unstick.  Start piling your fillings as close to the bottom edge as possible.  Begin with the lettuce leaf, then the veggies, noodles and finally the herbs. 

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Start rolling the wrapper around the filling, tucking with your fingers as you go, to get it as tight as possible.  Roll twice over the filling, then fold the two ends over and you will have something that looks like this:

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Keep rolling and one is done.  Place the finished rolls on a moist towel to keep them from drying out.  I made these vegetarian, but you can add cooked shrimp, shredded pork or chicken.  Accompany with spicy peanut sauce.

Lox bagel

I love waking up lazily on a Sunday morning and making my way to the kitchen to toast a bagel and layer goodies on it. I recently made my own gravlax and got to enjoy this amazing treat.

Lox Bagel

  • You favorite savory bagel – I used sundried tomato
  • Spreadable cream cheese
  • Capers
  • One red onion, sliced thinly
  • One tomato, sliced
  • Gravlax

Toast the bagel to your liking.  Spread cream cheese, sprinkle capers, layer red onion slices, tomato slices and finally gravlax.  Enjoy.

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Gravlax

After years of splurging on gravlax in specialty grocery stores and bagel shops, I decided to try to make it myself. I researched several recipes and made it a couple of times before settling on my favorite method, which really showcases the salmon’s natural flavor and has a butter soft texture.  Although it may seem a little intimidating, making gravlax is super easy and well worth it if you love it as much as I do.  Just imagine the possibilities: the classic gravlax bagel with sliced red onions, tomato, cream cheese and pungent little capers, gravlax with juicy springtime fruit, tomato and avocado salad with herbs and gravlax, gravlax with dill mustard on crackers, even slices by themselves!

Gravlax

  • One 2-3 lb salmon filet with skin on
  • zest of two limes
  • 4-6 tbsp kosher salt
  • 4-6 tbsp brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp fresh dill

Place salmon filet on a cutting board and run your hands over every piece of flesh, pulling out any bones.  Use needlenose pliers for bones that are particularly stubborn.

Place salmon filet skin side down on a large piece of plastic wrap, twice or three times the length of the filet.

In a medium bowl, mix together the lime zest, kosher salt, brown sugar and dill.  Sniff the container after all is mixed.  For pleasure.

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Spread the mixture all over every inch of the salmon’s flesh.

Fold the filet in half, skin side out, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap.  Once wrapped, wrap again with more plastic wrap.  wrap wrap wrap wrap. (what a weird word)

Place the wrapped filet in a container and place another, heavier container on top of it to keep an even weight compression.  Put it all together into the fridge and forget about it for 3-4 days.

After it has cured, the filet wrapper will be oily.  Unwrap the filet and pat dry with a paper towel if excessively oily.

With a very sharp knife, at an angle, carefully carve off thin slices, leaving the skin intact.

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You’ll end up with a much larger pile of salmon than $9 will buy you in any specialty shop.

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Sliced gravlax will keep in the fridge for up to a week.

I <3 Frijoles

In my parents home there has never been an absence of beans.  Ever.  My mom would make a batch of pinto beans every few days and we would eat them as a side dish, in burritos or my favorite – by themselves with a little queso fresco sprinkled on top accompanied by a warm corn tortilla to soak up the rich broth.  Yumz. 

Dried Bean Guide 

1/3 cup dry beans = 1 cup cooked beans
1/2 cup dry beans = 1 1/2 cups cooked beans
2/3 cup dry beans = 2 cup cooked beans
1 cup dry beans = 3 cups cooked beans
2 cups (1 pound) dry beans = 6 cups cooked beans

Beans typically can be found in bags at the grocery store or sometimes in bulk bins.  They must be sorted very carefully because they are a natural product that came from a plant, therefore will sometimes have debris such as little stones, that can be camoflaged against the sea of beans.  Sort out any beans that are discolored, wrinkled, or broken, in addition to debris.  Rinse the sorted beans.

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Good beans on the left, bad beans on the right

Place the beans in a heavy pot or Dutch oven.  In order to reduce their “magical” abilities, soak them in cool water, about 2 inches above the top of the beans, for 6-8 hours.  Strain out the soaking liquid and replace with fresh water, about 4 inches above the top of the beans.  Bring to a boil over med-high heat, then cover and reduce to med-low heat and allow to cook for about 2 hours.  Check on them once in a while to be sure they still have ample water.  If they are beginning to dry out, add more water. 

You can tell the beans are done by squishing a few between two fingers.  They should be completely soft. 

Now that the beans are done, they are ready to season.  I like to add salt, a teaspoon at a time, mixing each addition in and tasting before adding more.  Then I add one chopped onion and one sliced jalapeno for a nice spicy kick.  Allow the beans to simmer until the onion and jalapeno are soft and enjoy!

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Broiled Grapefruit with Spiced Brown Sugar

I hate grapefruit.  My husband claims to love it so much that he buys a 10 lb bag of them, then forgets about their existence until they rot and we throw them out, only to start the cycle all over again.  This has been ongoing for years.  Every time we go grocery shopping together, a bag of grapefruit magically appears in the cart and he swears each time that he will actually eat them and I let him buy them, knowing full well what their fate will be.  Today, I looked at his aging bag of grapefruit in disgust but then guilted myself into not wasting another bag, so I covered them in spiced sugar and put them under the broiler… and today I have a new favorite snack.  The best part of this snack is the juices you get to drink when you’re done scooping everything out of the fruit!  Plus, there are only about 155 calories in one fruit.

Broiled Grapefruit with Spiced Brown Sugar

  • 4 Ruby Red Grapefruits
  • 4 tsp Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon or if you’re lucky enough to have a Penzey’s nearby – Penzey’s Cake Spice (a combination of cinnamon, star anise, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, cloves)

Mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon.

Cut each grapefruit in half between the stem and end.  Remove any seeds and poke a knife into each section to loosen the flesh.

Place grapefruits on a foil lined baking sheet and spread the brown sugar mixture over each grapefruit.

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Place the baking sheet under the broiler on low until the sugar gets caramelized and bubbly, about 15-20 minutes.  Watch closely, as my broiler may get the job done quicker or slower than yours.  

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Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little while.  Enjoy while warm.

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Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Unlike all my American friends I’ve spoken to about them, mis padres never attempted to feed us brussels sprouts.  The first time I tasted them was just 4 months ago.  I was inspired/determined to try them and doggone it, I was going to like them.   Initially, I prepared them by only boiling them, but just did not like something about them – it was as if they made my tongue kinda numb and had a soft texture.  I decided to play around with my preparation and came up with this, which I love!  They are like tiny, flavorful, toothsome cabbages, sautéed to caramelized perfection.

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Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

  • 20 Brussels Sprouts
  • 4 Thick bacon strips, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 2 Pinches of salt
  • 4-5 Turns of a pepper grinder

Tear off any loose outer leaves from the brussels sprouts and cut an “x” through the bottom of the stems, but not through the bulb. 

Bring a 2 quart saucepan of water and a pinch of salt to a rolling boil.  Add sprouts into the boiling water and allow to cook until they turn bright green, about 4 minutes.  

Drain and set the sprouts aside onto a cutting board to cool slightly. 

Cut the sprouts in half lengthwise.

Place bacon pieces into a frying pan over medium heat and cook thoroughly, stirring occasionally.  Place the sprouts into the pan and toss with the bacon pieces.  Occasionally stir to allow sprouts to brown evenly. 

When all sprouts are lightly browned, sprinkle a pinch of salt and add pepper and lemon zest, then toss.