Deconstructed Turkey Burger

… or I guess I should say half-way deconstructed?  Deconstructing food means taking the ingredients apart and then putting them back in a new/unusual way.  But I just took the individual ingredients and put them in separate piles on the plate.  I can chalk it up to laziness, no creativity, or the pure lack of time and an empty stomach.  (Spoiler alert: it was all three.)

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Our line-up includes ground turkey with cheese and zesty lime juice, a sweet tomato, spinach, and super flavorful mushrooms.

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I love this plate because it’s a game of mix-and-match.  You can eat a bit of everything in one bite, or you can chose to leave out some flavors.

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The burger is SO juicy and packed with flavor.  This is a favorite, easy meal that I repeat often, throwing whatever ingredients I have on had around the burger.  Today it was mushrooms, spinach, and tomato, but I have done a variety of beans, avocado, red onion etc!

Turkey Burger

4 servings

1 teaspoon lime or lemon juice
1 1/4 pounds ground turkey
1 cup cheddar cheese (but let’s be honest, I just whatever cheese I have in the fridge. Usually it’s mozzarella, today it was parmesan.)
1/4 onion, diced
1 tomato, sliced
2 1/2 cups spinach
1 cup white mushrooms, sliced

1. Combine turkey, citrus juice, cheese, and onion in a medium bowl. Mix until all ingredients are just combined.
2. Form mixture into 4 3/4 inch-thick patties. Cook on a pan heated to medium-high until cooked through, flipping half way.
3. Meanwhile, heat a separate pan over medium-high heat and grease with oil. Add sliced mushrooms, season with salt and pepper. Let cook until golden-brown and tender.
4. Arrange pattie, spinach, tomato, and mushroom on plate. Enjoy!

TONKATSU (Pork Cutlets)

College is great for many reasons, one being that there always seems to be an event with free food, or friends who invite you over to eat.  This translated into me barely cooking these past few weeks which was quite exciting at first… especially for the grocery bill.  But then I started to miss it.

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So we’re back at it with TONKATSU. Not only is it a fried pork cutlet, it’s Japanese. Double win. I’ve had it since I was little (thanks mom) but when I was in Japan for a year and a half, it was so fun to see my companions eat it for the first time and fall in love. In one area we would buy lunch once a week and my companion chose this every single time. She loved it too much to risk trying anything else.

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TONKASTU

4 servings

4 pieces pork loin chops, thinly sliced
pinch of salt and pepper
flour, as needed
2 beaten eggs
2 cups bread crumbs
frying oil, as needed
tonkatsu sauce

1. To make the pork more tender, pound out the meat a little bit, and then form it back into it’s shape.
2. Season each side of the pork with salt and pepper
3. Dredge each piece of pork in flour, dip both sides into the beaten eggs, and then coat with breadcrumbs.
4. Heat a large skillet with about 1/2 inch of oil until hot, then put the pork in. Fry until golden brown, turning once and heating all the way through.
5. Place on paper towels to let the oil drip off, cut into pieces, and eat!

Sweet and Sour Chicken

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Sweet and tangy. I’m pretty sure this type of chicken is what keeps food courts across the country in business, because it’s what the taste buds are made for. But I avoid these like the plague at the food court because even just eating a sample makes me feel like I just ate something greasy and unnatural and I should avoid eating in general for the next day to make up for it.

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This chicken, on the other hand, is full of goodness covered in a mix of sugar and vinegar, among other things, so it turns into sweet and sour goodness coming out of YOUR OWN OVEN. Sweet and sour chicken is, to me, something that sounds hard to make…but it’s so easy! So eat chicken and be merry. The end.

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Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken

From Mel’s Kitchen Cafe // Makes 4-6 servings
Chicken:
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
Salt and pepper
1 cup cornstarch
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup canola, vegetable or coconut oil
Sauce:
1/2 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar (depending on how sweet you want the sauce)
4 tablespoons ketchup
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Cut the chicken breasts into 1-inch pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Place the cornstarch in a gallon-sized ziploc bag. Put the chicken into the bag with the cornstarch and seal, tossing to coat the chicken.
3. Whisk the eggs together in a shallow pie plate. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until very hot and rippling. Dip the cornstarch-coated chicken pieces in the egg and place them carefully in a single layer in the hot skillet.
4. Cook for 20-30 seconds on each side until the crust is golden but the chicken is not all the way cooked through (this is where it’s really important to have a hot skillet/oil). Place the chicken pieces in a single layer in a 9X13-inch baking dish and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.
5. Mix the sauce ingredients together in a medium bowl and pour over the chicken. Bake for one hour, turning the chicken once or twice while cooking to coat evenly with sauce. Serve over hot, steamed rice.
P.S. Props to my twin Annie for actually making this while I dashed home from the library.

Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps

I’m back from a year and a half in Japan, yet I bring to you cashew chicken lettuce wraps.  Not exactly the most Japanese dish.  But, I snagged the recipe from a site I love, and I guess it makes sense that coming back to home would mean coming back to old habits and beloved cooking blogs.  But don’t worry, the Japanese recipes will be coming sooner or later!  But for now: cashews and chicken.

The lettuce is crisp, the tomatoes fresh, and the cashews bring in a nice, deep flavor.  Then add the chicken, soy sauce, syrup, onions, carrots, and garlic and it’s… gone in five minutes.  But the good news is that it takes not much longer than that to prepare.

Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps

from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe/makes 4 servings
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely diced yellow or white onion
  • 1 cup finely diced (or shredded) carrots
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed through a garlic press
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or chicken thighs, cut into small pieces
  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoon pure maple syrup *I substituted honey in for syrup
  • 1/2 cup chopped raw cashews (lightly toasted, if desired)
  • Bibb or green leaf lettuce leaves for wrapping
  • Chopped cucumbers and tomatoes for serving
  1. In a large 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onion and carrots. Add the garlic, salt and pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the vegetables start to soften.
  2. Season the chicken pieces lightly with salt and pepper and add to the skillet with the onions and carrots. Cook, stirring often, until the chicken pieces are cooked through, 4-5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the soy sauce and maple syrup and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, letting the soy sauce and maple syrup bubble and simmer.
  4. Stir in the cashews, cooking until they are just heated through. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if needed.
  5. Serve in lettuce leaves topped with tomatoes and cucumbers

Lamb Kofta Kebabs with Tzatziki

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There’s a place called The Olive Tree. The Olive Tree is a Greek/Mediterranean Café that happens to serve the best kofta kebabs ever. They’re so good that I wanted to learn how to make them so that I could have them whenever I wanted. And I am sooo glad I did because these kofta kebabs– made with ground lamb, garlic, onion, and a ton of spices– are so juicy and flavorful that you won’t even feel bad that you’re eating a little lamb. And they’re even better with tzatziki, a greek sauce made with yogurt and cucumbers. After making this dish, you’ll feel like you belong in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Originally from Food Network [makes 4-6 servings]
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus a pinch
1 pound ground lamb
3 tablespoons grated onion
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Smash the garlic cloves, sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt, and, with the flat side of a large knife, mash and smear mixture to a coarse paste. Mix the paste and the remaining 1 tablespoon salt with the meat, onion, parsley, and spices.
2. Line a pan with aluminum foil. Divide the meat mixture into 28 rough balls. Mold each piece around the pointed end of a skewer, making a 2-inch oval kebab that comes to a point just covering the tip of the skewer. Lay the skewers on the pan, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours. (Or just stick the balls on the stick like I did because it’s way easier.)
3. Heat a grill pan over medium heat or prepare a grill. Brush the pan lightly with olive oil. Working in batches, grill the kebabs, turning occasionally, until brown all over and just cooked through, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter and serve with tzatziki and flat bread.

Tzatziki
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 medium cucumber, peeled, halved, and seeded
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus a pinch
1/4 clove garlic
1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon dried mint, crumbled

1. If you’re using plain whole milk yogurt, line a small sieve with a coffee filter. Put the yogurt in it, set it over a bowl, and refrigerate 12 hours. Discard the expressed liquid and put yogurt in the bowl.
2. Grate the cucumber on the large holes of a box grater into another bowl. Sprinkle with the 2 teaspoons salt and rub into the cucumber with your hands. Set aside 20 minutes, then squeeze the cucumbers to express as much liquid as possible.
3. Smash the garlic, sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt, and, with the flat side of a large knife, mash and smear the mixture to a coarse paste. Stir the cucumber, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and mint into the yogurt. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

White Chicken and Spinach Lasagna

white-lasagna1                                                         //Photo from original recipe on Mel’s Kitchen Café//

This lasagna is SO GOOD. So delicious that I was actually wondering how it tasted so good while I was eating it.
And since I’ve said ‘so good’ too many times already (Food Network tells you not to do that) I’ll describe how it tasted when I was eating it: creamy, cheesy, and like chicken. Clearly I will never be hired by Food Network.

Original recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe
Sauce:
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped white or yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 1/2 cups milk
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Lasagna:
9 no-boil lasagna noodles
2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
2-3 cups cooked chicken
1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 4 cups)
3 ounces Parmesan cheese (about 1 to 1 1/2 cups), reserve 1/4 cup for the top of the lasagna
2 (9-ounces each) packages baby spinach, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9X13-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
2.In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent and tender, 3-4 minutes. Stir in the flour and let it cook, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes.
3.Gradually add the chicken broth and milk while whisking vigorously. Continue cooking and stirring for 4-5 minutes until the mixture simmers and thickens. Stir in the basil, oregano, salt and pepper.
4.To assemble, spread about 1 to 1 1/2 cups sauce on the bottom of the prepared pan. Place 3 no-boil noodles on top and dollop with 1/2 of the ricotta. No need to spread the ricotta out into an even layer, although you can press it down a bit, just spoon it across. Add half of the chicken on top of the ricotta.
5.Layer on 1/2 of the chopped spinach. It will seem like a lot but just spread it evenly – it will cook down while baking. Sprinkle 1/2 of the mozzarella and 1/2 of the Parmesan cheese (don’t forget to take out 1/4 cup of the Parmesan for sprinkling across the top!).
6.Place 3 noodles over the top, gently pressing down to compress the layers below. Spread 1/2 of the remaining sauce over the top. Repeat the layers again (remaining ricotta, chicken, spinach, mozzarella, Parmesan).
7.Place the last 3 noodles over the top, pressing down again. Spread the remaining sauce over the top and sprinkle with reserved Parmesan cheese.
8.Cover the baking dish with lightly greased aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15 minutes until golden and bubbly. Let the lasagna rest for 10 minutes before serving.

**Modifications I made:
-I cut the recipe in 1/4 and used a tiny, little pan
-I used normal lasagna noodles and had to boil them in advance
-I didn’t use ricotta cheese (because I have bought it before and it is a pain to try to use up the whole thing without feeling like you’re eating cheese in every meal.)

Pizza: Asparagus and Thai

About those tortillas. They are the perfect crispy, thin pizza crusts.  And–instead of having to make dough, wait for it to rise, and roll it out– you can pull out a leftover tortilla and throw together the perfect lunch super fast! 

The number of different pizzas you could make are endless.  Like, seriously, you could live to be 100 and still be whipping out new combinations of flavors and ingredients.  But I’m going to talk about two different options:  shaved asparagus pizza, and thai peanut pizza (AND THEY’RE ALL SUPER EASY, KAYLA, SO YOU BETTER MAKE THESE)

1) SHAVED ASPARAGUS PIZZA (aka the best thing ever)
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When I think of this pizza, I think of one word: fresh. Pizza carries a negative connotation (I mean, come one, it’s on pretty much every temptation challenge on the Biggest Loser). But this is the opposite of a large slab of dough bogged down with grease. It’s fresh. This is a pizza you eat when you want to feel healthy. And clean. And good. So, basically, you should eat this all the time.

from Smitten Kitchen *this is for a full size pizza… reduce the amounts if you’re just making a single serving on a tortilla
1/2 pound asparagus
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 pound mozzarella, shredded or cut into small cubes
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
Several grinds black pepper
1 scallion, thinly sliced

1. Preheat your oven to the hottest temperature it goes, or about 500 in most cases. If you use a pizza stone, have it in there.
2. Prepare asparagus: No need to snap off ends; they can be your “handles” as you peel the asparagus. Holding a single asparagus spear by its tough end, lay it flat on a cutting board and using a peeler, create long shavings of asparagus by drawing the peeler from the base to the top of the stalk. Repeat with remaining stalks. Toss peelings with olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl.
3. Assemble and bake pizza: Pile asparagus on top of pizza dough (or tortilla). Bake pizza for 10 to 15 minutes, or until edges are browned, the cheese is bubbly and the asparagus might be lightly charred. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle with scallions, then slice and eat.

2) THAI PIZZA
I don’t have a recipe for this, I just made it up. It’ll make you feel like you’re travelling the world, even when you’re in Heritage Halls building 29.
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//Let us all pretend that there is not a plastic bag sticking out in this picture.//

Thai peanut sauce
mozzarella cheese
chicken, cooked and cut into bite-size pieces
bell peppers, cut into bite-size pieces
broccoli, cut into bite-size pieces

1.Spread Thai peanut sauce on your tortilla, or dough. Add mozzarella cheese, chicken, bell peppers, and broccoli.
2. Bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly.