Sunday Family Dinner goes back to Japan!

April 2014 Family Dinner

Well gang…. last year’s Japanese Sunday Family Dinner was so oishii – we had to go back again.

This time, per our brother-in-law’s request since we were also celebrating his birthday!

April 2014 Family Dinner

As always, we had to start with a few cocktails. I kept it pretty simple (but refreshingly delish) by infusing sake with fresh fruit. I filled a few mason jars with sweet canteloupe and pineapples, topped them off with sake, and them let them hang out in the fridge for a week.

When it was time to get the party started, I threw the contents of each jar in the blender, pureed it and then strained the liquids. It was fabulous!

April 2014 Family Dinner

As for the food, we had to do a little different spin on last year’s dinner. In honor of the robatayaki-yakiniku Japanese grilling style, we snagged a few of my cousin’s grills (that our uncle finagled) and got down to business!

We grilled fresh oysters, clams, prawns, calamari, trumpet mushrooms and yakitori (grilled chicken skewers). The seafood were either dipped in a chili ponzu sauce or a ginger-fish sauce that the B.I.L. (bro-in-law) is a whiz at making.

April 2014 Family Dinner

And of course we had to have some beautiful, fresh sashimi.

Tuna, salmon, hamachi and …………..GEODUCK!

April 2014 Family Dinner

Have you ever seen fresh geoduck? CRAZY!!! They’re a gi-normous shellfish with a trunk-like thing sticking out of it.

We made big sis take care of the prep work for it…. obligatory big sister duties, of course. :)

It’s best to first blanch the geoduck for a minute to help skin it – a tip learned by a random stranger when we were buying the geoduck at the market. After a quick clean, she sliced it really thin and we inhaled it with soy and wasabi.

Verdict? Awesome. I liken the flavor and texture to escargot –but not as chewy.

Definitely a Foodventure.

April 2014 Family Dinner

To brush over the yakitori and mushrooms, I made a quick teriyaki sauce. Easy-peasy!

My other seester also made Japanese Hamburger Steak served over rice. Totally comforting and hearty.

April 2014 Family Dinner

And there’s always room for dessert in my family!

This time around, our big sis outdid herself with this layered Matcha Green Tea Cake filled with Green Tea Mousse and smothered with a rich ganache.

It was AH-MAY-ZING! Super-duper Green Tea Flavor!

April 2014 Family Dinner

She did a mash-up of a few different recipes. The cake comes from here and the green tea mousse is from here. As for the ganache, it was a quick version I made with heavy cream and dark chocolate. Can’t get any easier than that! But one piece of advice, double the amounts of matcha powder or else you won’t get that full flavor.

April 2014 Family Dinner

Pre-historic looking mollusks, outdoor grilling (including us accidentally melting the plastic table -eek!) and sparklers for the munchkins.

Needless to say it was a tummy-pleasing and FUN Sunday Family Dinner!

April 2014 Family Dinner

Tequila Chili-Lime Chicken

Tequila Chili-Lime Chicken

So here’s the thing.

I’ve never claimed to have a blog about figure-friendly, low-calorie recipes. I mean, c’mon now. I believe in BUTTER….BACON…and BOOZE!

My kitchen’s Holy Trinity.

Tequila Chili-Lime Chicken

But even this gal has to be a bit health-conscious sometimes. Eating (or drinking) lots of fresh veggies, getting in some regular workouts and finagling lean proteins into the menu as often as possible.

Now I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t naturally gravitate towards chicken breasts–especially boneless/skinless chicken breast. And don’t even get my brother started on his feelings on chicken. But the proof is in the puddin‘ — chicken breast is one of the leanest proteins you can put in your tummy.

Tequila Chili-Lime Chicken

And since we all know that it can so easily dry out and taste like sandpaper, here are my two no-brainer tips to combating the chicken blues.

First, you’ve got to pump the chicken with as much flavor as possible. We’re talking a boom-pow marinade and let the chicken soak in it as long as possible. And if you want to get crazy– brine it!

Second, smother it with goodness! Yup, it’s condiments time – and you know how much I love condiments! Things like pico de gallos, salsas, marinaras, and chimichurris are fantastic over grilled chicken.

My Tequila Chili-Lime Chicken is a standard way I like to marinate my chicken breasts overnight before throwing them on the grill. The tequila and limes help to break down the chicken and as long as you’re not going rogue on the grill, it stays nice and juicy. It’s also a great method for chicken wings—just put a bit of the marinade aside and when you start cooking, baste the wings with it.

Over a salad, inside quesadillas/burritos, in sammies or as a stand alone, my Tequila Chili-Lime Chicken has helped me {in a delicious way} with my skinless-chicken breast aversion.

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Tequila Chili-Lime Chicken
Serves 6

Ingredients:
1 large bunch fresh cilantro
1 small white onion
4 large garlic cloves
1-2 jalapeno peppers (depending on heat preference)
zest of 1 lime
½ cup fresh lime juice
½ cup tequila
1 tablespoon honey or agave
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¾ tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ cup olive oil
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts*
vegetable oil
lime wedges

In a food processor or blender, add the first 15 ingredients. Pulse several times until the fresh aromatics have broken down. Place the chicken breasts into a gallon size resealable bag. Pour the marinade over the chicken and massage it through. Be sure to get most of the air out of the bag before sealing it. Put the chicken in the refrigerator and marinate overnight.

An hour before you start cooking the chicken, pull it from the refrigerator to take the chill off of it. Heat your grill to medium-high. Brush the grates of your grill with the vegetable oil. Place the chicken breast on the grill and cook for about 5-6 minutes on the first side before flipping. Cook for an additional 4-5 minutes on the 2nd side until cooked through and the internal temperature reaches approximately 165 degrees F. Remove the chicken from the grill and loosely tent with aluminum foil. Allow it to rest for about 5 minutes.

Serve warm with fresh lime wedges and your choice of condiments.

*Bone-in chicken breast can also be used but adjust the cooking times as needed.

Grilled Ribeye Steak with Chimichurri Sauce — Happy Birthday Mom!

Mom

I kind of love this picture of Mom. It was taken on her wedding day about 48 years ago in Việt Nam.

Isn’t she stunning?

And today is her birthday.

photo-64

For the past few years, I’ve sort have done a little ritual each year on May 10th to celebrate her birthday. In the morning, I swing by Panera to grab an Egg Souffle (her fav) for brekkie and then at some point in the day, I make a steak.

Because Mom L-O-V-E-D her some steaks.

Mom3

She adored a Filet Mignon or a straight up Ribeye Steak – kind of a trait she’s passed on to my seester T and my niece Nina.

 

Mom2

This year to honor Mom’s birthday, I grilled up a tender and meat-a-licious Grilled Ribeye Steak with Chimichurri Sauce.

 

Grilled Ribeye Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

 

Truthfully, I can’t recall Mom ever having chimichurri over her steak but I can be certain that she would have loved it. Flavorful grilled steaks topped with an herbaceous & spicy chimichurri –she would have been ALL about it.

 

Grilled Ribeye Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

So here’s to Mom—our loyal, strong, steak lovin’, foodie, fashionista who we love and miss every day.

Happy Birthday Mama!

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Grilled Ribeye Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
Serves 2

Ingredients:

1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil, more for the grill
1 16-18 ounce ribeye steak
kosher salt
black pepper
1/4 cup (or more) chimichurri sauce, to taste

Rub the oil over the the steak. Heavily season with kosher salt and black pepper.

Heat a grill (gas or charcoal) to medium-high heat. Brush the grates of the grill with additional oil.

Grill the first side of the steak directly over the heat for 4-5 minutes. Flip to the other side and continue to grill for about 3-4 minutes–or until desired doneness.  Once grilled and golden, remove the steak and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Slice the steak against the grain and plate. Top with spoonfuls of the chimichurri sauce and serve.

 

Ch-ch-ch–Chimichurri Sauce!

Chimichurri Sauce

Happy CHIMICHURRI FRIDAY!

Ok…it’s not really Chimichurri Friday-–it’s Aloha Friday. But as far as I’m concerned, every day should have chimichurri in it.

Chimichurri Sauce

The sauce originates from Argentina and is FULL of fresh herbs, citrus and spices. It’s incredibly aromatic and bright and is perfect over grilled meats, seafood, in sammiches and as a dip.

And. I. LOVE. IT.

I’ve posted the recipe alongside other dishes before but I thought this showstopper deserved a post on its own.

Chimichurri Sauce

Chimichurri has similar flavor profiles to pesto as both contain fresh herbs and spicy garlic. But since chimichurri does not contain nuts or cheeses, it can be considered a slimmer substitute for pestos. Both as a spread or even in pastas like my Chimichurri Orzo.

Chimichurri Sauce

So this weekend, break out the grill and throw a few steaks (or chicken…or lamb chops…) and some seafood on the fire. Slather the grilled goodness with Chimichurri Sauce and show all the MOM(s) in your life how much you love them.

Have a fabulous Mother’s Day Weekend!

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Chimichurri Sauce
Makes approximately 2 cups

Ingredients:

1 large bunch fresh cilantro
1 large bunch fresh Italian parsley
6-8 sprigs fresh oregano
4 large garlic cloves
1 large serrano chili pepper*
zest of 1 lime
¼ cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon red chili flakes*
1 teaspoon honey or agave
¾ – 1 cup olive oil, more if needed
kosher salt
black pepper

In a food processor or blender, add all of the ingredients except the kosher salt and pepper. Pulse several times until the herbs have broken down.

Stream in the olive oil and blend until the items have fully incorporated. Sprinkle in ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Pulse to combine. More olive oil can be added if a smoother, loose texture is desired. Check for seasonings and add additional salt and pepper as needed. Refrigerate until ready to be used.

*Chili amounts can be adjusted based on heat level preference.

Turkey & Peppers Tacos – Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Turkey & Peppers Tacos

Well gang…y’all made it — HAPPY CINCO DE MAYO!!!!

And as promised, I have one more little goodie to share with you that will definitely make some tummies quite happy today.

Turkey & Peppers Tacos

Turkey & Peppers Tacos!

Like my Portabello Mushroom Tacos, these little beauties are super quick to make and are darn right tasty. And if you’re not a fan of ground turkey, you can swap out the protein with ground chicken, pork, beef– or even ground tofurkey!

Turkey & Peppers Tacos

And just don’t stop with tacos. The filling works fantastic over nachos, tostadas, inside burritos or even inside lettuce wraps.

Because this gal likes versatility.

Turkey & Peppers Tacos

Here’s to a fantastically festive Cinco de Mayo – have a margarita (or 2 for me)!

Salud!

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Turkey & Peppers Tacos
Makes 8-10 Tacos

Ingredients:

 

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped red onions
2 small serrano peppers, seeds removed, finely minced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 pound ground turkey meat
¾ teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon garlic salt
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 scallions, chopped
2 cups diced bell peppers (I prefer red and orange peppers)
1 cup chopped cilantro leaves, more to garnish
8-10 small tortillas
1 cup crumbled Cotija cheese, or whatever cheeses you prefer
oven-roasted tomato salsa
lime wedges

 

In a large cast iron pan or large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 3-4 minutes until they become translucent but not browned. Add in the minced serrano, garlic and sauté for an additional minute.

 

Add the turkey and use a wooden spoon to stir it around the pan while breaking it apart to a crumbled consistency. Cook the turkey until it is no long pink & begins to brown– approximately 5 minutes.

 

Stir in the cumin, chili powder, paprika, turmeric, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, garlic salt, kosher salt, black pepper and scallions. Cook for 1 minute and then add the diced bell peppers. Cook for an additional few minutes to allow the peppers to begin soften and the turkey to cook through.

 

Take the pan off the heat and fold in the cilantro leaves. Taste and adjust with additional kosher salt and black pepper as needed.

 

Warm the tortillas (in a skillet, over a open flame, or even in the microwave). Begin assembling the tacos by placing a few spoonfuls of the filling mixture in the center of each tortilla. Top each taco with some Cotija cheeses and chopped cilantro. Serve with salsa and lime wedges.

 

Portabello Mushroom Tacos

Portabello Mushroom Tacos

Ok…so let’s recap.

For our Cinco de Mayo fiesta planning, we’ve covered dips, pickled onions, and margaritas. And now it’s time for tacos.

Tacos, oh tacos…..how glorious you are. Savory goodness topped with fresh veggies and citrus–all wrapped up in a tortilla. Frankly, I haven’t met a taco I didn’t like.

So handy….so delicious….so perfect.

With so many variations, you really can’t go wrong. And might I suggest a few options?

Fish Tacos with Avocado-Cabbage Slaw

Fish Tacos with Avocado-Cabbage Slaw

Fat Tire® Braised Carnitas

Fat Tire® Braised Carnitas Tacos & Chavelas

Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Spicy Avocado Crema

Grilled Shrimp Tacos

And in case you’re looking for a vegetarian option, these Portabello Mushroom Tacos are the perfect thing for you. They’re hearty, flavorful and best of all–super quick to whip up. So instead of slaving in the kitchen during your Cinco de Mayo celebrations, you can make better use of your time such as sipping on margaritas with your loved ones.

But don’t fret folks, I’ve got one last fab dish for you that I’ll be sharing on Monday. Equally as delicious and fast to make….you’ll love it.

Happy Friday Folks!!!

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Portabello Mushroom Tacos
Makes 8-10 tacos

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped white onions
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, finely minced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1½ pounds portabello mushrooms, roughly chopped
¾ teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon garlic salt
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 scallions, chopped
1½ cups chopped cilantro leaves, more to garnish
8-10 small tortillas
1 cup shredded cheese (pepper jack, Monterey, cheddar- whatever you fancy)
pickled red onions
oven-roasted tomato salsa
lime wedges

In a large cast iron pan or large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 4-5 minutes until they become translucent but not browned. Add in the minced jalapeno and garlic and sauté for an additional minute.

Add the chopped mushrooms to the pan and sauté over the medium heat until they are softened and begin to brown. Stir in the cumin, chili powder, paprika, turmeric, red pepper flakes, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, garlic salt, kosher salt, black pepper and scallions. Cook for 1 minute and take the pan off the heat. Fold in the cilantro leaves. Taste and adjust with additional kosher salt and black pepper as needed.

Warm the tortillas (in a skillet, over a open flame, or even in the microwave). Begin assembling the tacos by placing a layer of the cheese on a tortilla and top with a few spoonfuls of the mushroom mixture. Top each taco with some picked red onions and cilantro. Serve with salsa and lime wedges.

*The dried spices in this recipe essentially make up the taco seasoning blend I keep on hand at home. However, if you want to make the dish even easier, substitute the dried spices for your preferred taco seasoning blend.

Blended Mango Margaritas

Blended Mango Margaritas

Let’s get one thing straight.

In my book, it’s not a Cinco de Mayo celebration if there aren’t margaritas on hand –whether there’s booze in them or not. A chilled beverage filled with tons of citrus that is the perfect sidekick to spicy salsas, tacos, ceviche, barbacoa….let’s face it–pretty much anything!

 

Blended Mango Margaritas

As we continue on with the Cinco de Mayo plans, it’s only fit to think about what type of margaritas to serve. I usually lean towards my standard classic margarita on the rocks with a heavy salt rim. But if you’re interested in something different, here are a few options:

 

Blood Orange Margaritas

Blood Orange Margaritas

Mint Margaritas

Mint Margaritas


Pomegranate Margaritas

Pomegranate Margaritas

 

Palomas
(not technically a margarita but a fantastic close cousin)

Palomas

 

I managed to get my hands on some deliciously sweet ataulfo mangoes and thought they would be fantastic in a blended margarita. I tossed them into the blender with some booze, fresh citrus, ice and voila— a fiesta in a glass!

Blended Mango Margaritas

If you don’t have fresh mangoes on hand, frozen mangoes could also be used. However, you may want to reduce the amount of ice and add a bit more simple syrup to taste. I also chose to rim the glass with sugar but if you happen to have some chili-lime salt (ie. Tajin) then that would be another fab flavor layer.

Salud!

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Blended Mango Margaritas
Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 lime wedge
sugar
2½ cups ripe mangoes
4 ounces premium tequila
2 ounces Cointreau or triple sec
2 ounces fresh lime juice
2 ounces fresh orange juice
1 ounce simple syrup (more if you prefer a sweeter cocktail)
1 cup crushed ice
limes slices to garnish

Use the lime wedge and rim the edge of two glasses. Dip/roll the rim into the sugar and coat the edge of each glass.

Place all the remaining items into a blender and puree until smooth. Pour the contents into the rimmed glass and garnish with a lime slice. Cheers!