Spicy Asian Soup

Usually during the day, I think about what I’m going to make for dinner that night. Yesterday, I kept thinking about how I was going to make a shepherds pie with the vegetarian ground beef we had bought the previous week. Last minute, Jake texted me before heading home from work asking if we could have soup. Argh! He wanted to have a spicy asian broth with fish, shrimp, and bok choy. I gave in and so he stopped by the grocery store on the way home to get the ingredients. Turns out Jake thinks that this particular soup was one of the best things I’ve ever made!

Here’s what you’ll need to make the soup base:

  • 1 Tbsp Vegetable or Canola Oil
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 1.5″ Fresh Ginger Root (sliced)
  • 1 Green Onion (sliced)
  • 1 Small Onion (chopped)
  • 2 Star Anise
  • 1/3 cup Hot Bean Paste
  • 2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Sriracha
  • 7 cups Beef Broth
  • Dash of Chinese 5 Spice (optional)

Here’s what I used for the fixings, but feel free to mix it up and experiment with whatever you like.

  • 1 lb. Haddock
  • 10 Extra Jumbo Frozen Shrimp (remove the skin and chunk)
  • 1 Small Head/Bundle of Bok Choy (Baby bok choy is better. Otherwise, cut into smaller pieces.)
  • 1 Big Handful of Bean Sprouts
  • A couple of handfuls of Kale (torn into pieces)
  • 6 oz. Shiitaki Mushrooms (sliced)
  • 1/4 lb. Angel Hair Pasta (Any noodle should be fine. Udon would be great.)

To make the broth, start with oil in a large pot. (I used a 5 quart pot.) Add in the garlic, ginger, onion, green onion, and star anise. Cook on medium until fragrant and the onions start to become translucent.

Then, add in the hot bean sauce. I happened to find this particular one at the Asian market, but I think any sort of hot bean sauce will work. Start with approximately 1/4 cup. Reserve the rest in case you want to add more later based on the taste. Mix and cook with the aromatics for a few minutes. Because I have the copper pan, I don’t get a lot of stuck bits at the bottom, but if you do, don’t worry. That will add some extra flavor and you’ll have an opportunity to scrape it all up in the next step when adding the broth.

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Then, add the beef broth, a splash of the soy sauce, and squirt of the sriracha. This is when you should add the optional dash of the Chinese 5-piece powder. Taste test and increase the amounts of soy sauce and sriracha based on your liking. 20180924_191908.jpgBring the broth to a boil. When boiling, add the angel hair pasta.  Bring the boil down to a dull roar. I suggest letting that cook for about five minutes. Then, add the bok choy, bean sprouts, kale, and shiitake mushrooms. Let that cook for another five minutes or so.As a last step, I add the haddock chunks and shrimp. I cooked that for five more minutes. At this point, the soup is ready to serve, but feel free to continue simmering it for a bit longer to let all the flavors meld together. Finally, serve and garnish with more green onion if you’d like!20180925_173522.jpgYou’ll find a million Asian soup recipes out there. I’ve made a few of them and that’s where I’ve gotten some of these ideas. This is the easiest that I’ve tried so far, yet the most flavorful. I hope you give it a try!

Sincerely,
Fu’d

 

 

 

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Leftover Lo Mein Pseudo-Arancini

Yep, you read that right. This was a total experiment. Jake and I had leftover shrimp lo mein from our favorite local Chinese food joint. We had about three quarters of the large container left and I didn’t want it to go to waste.

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Leftover lo mein

The problem was that I didn’t feel right eating lo mein on a Monday night. To me, it seems like a pig out junk food. And since my diets always start on a Monday ;), I felt like I needed to mask it somehow. I decided to pulse it in the food processor, which essentially riced it, and then make it into an air-fried ball. I call it pseudo-arancini because arancini is traditionally made with rice. I’ve actually never made arancini before, but I figured this might be unique and potentially yummy.

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After pulsing the lo mein in a food processor

I mixed in two eggs and and about 1/3 cup panko breadcrums. I chose panko because I didn’t want to add in too many other flavors to the already-flavored lo mein. I initially started with one egg and approx. 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs. I then added the second egg and additional breadcrumbs because the consistency wasn’t sticky enough for a ball to hold together.

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Mixing the riced lo mein with egg and panko
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Egg and panko incorporated to make a sticky mixture

I was trying to decide what should go in the middle of the lo mein ball. From what I’ve read, traditional arancini usually has some sort of cheese, meat, and/or peas. I didnt think that cheese fit in this case and I wasnt feeling the meat or peas. I decided to go with mini frozen chicken and vegetable dumplings I had in the freezer. They are only about 1.5 inches wide, so the size worked out well. I microwaved them first so they weren’t frozen and used one in the center of each ball.

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Mini dumplings from BJ’s Wholesale Club, used as the filling for the balls

I then simply formed a ball of lo mein around the dumpling. (Be prepared to get messy hands.) I started first by taking a bit, compacting it and flattening it. I then placed the dumpling in the middle and started to cup my hand so the lo mein would begin to wrap around the edges. I took another scoop of lo mein with my other hand, put it on top of the dumpling and just began shaping it. I kept compressing it and rolling it with both cupped hands until a ball shape was formed.

When satisifed with the shape, I rolled the ball in some more panko bread crumbs. Finally, I refrigerated the balls for about 30-45 minutes so they would firm up a bit.

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Rolling the shaped balls in panko

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I think deep frying them would’ve been delicious, but I wasn’t ready to put that much effort into it. So, I went with the healthier and easier option – my air fryer. I set it to 400 degrees Farenheit and turned them every so often until they were a golden brown all around. This took a total of about 20 minutes.

The end result was a fun, new dish. I was surprised that the very flavorful lo mein didn’t seem to present itself much when cooked in the ball. Maybe the breadcrumbs and egg dulled a bit of the flavor. If I make this again, I would incorporate some extra seasoning – perhaps some sriracha, a splash of soy sauce, scallion, or something that might make the flavors pop a little more. I made a mayo/ketchup/sriracha dipping sauce and served it with a side of air fried broccoli.

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Out of the air fryer and onto the broccoli
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Ball cut in half, showing the mini dumpling

Jake thought the dish was very heavy, so if you’re looking for something light, this probably isn’t it. On the other hand, if you are looking for something to do with your leftovers and don’t mind a little experimentation, I’d say give it a try! I would love to see you try this and comment with your experience!

Hope this inspires you to try something new!

Sincerely,
Fu’d

My Birthday! A Hearty Homemade Dinner

Yesterday was my birthday! Ah, how time flies. Everything leading up until that night’s dinner really didn’t feel any different. It fell in the middle of the week – I worked a full day, didn’t mention it to anyone at work, and we hadn’t really made any plans. On my way home, I called Jake like I normally do. Come to find out, he had left work early and was in the middle of cooking me a birthday dinner! Not only that, but he had taken some photos for me along the way, knowing that I would want to blog about it. Am I that predictable?! Look below at what a great job he did!

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Wine is a staple in my diet, so the night before my birthday, Jake stopped by the local wine shop and purchased four bottles of wine. Yay! He chose one of the red wines to enjoy with the birthday dinner last night.

On my birthday, Jake had timed his cooking so that when I got home I had just enough time to shower and get into my sweats (the perfect birthday outfit) before he finished the appetizer. He made breaded air-fried shrimp with a dipping sauce.

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To make the shrimp appetizer, he tossed raw shrimp in a “secret” seasoning blend, coated the shrimp in egg whites, and tossed them with Italian Style breadcrumbs. He then air-fried the shrimp until the breadcrumbs were a golden brown. For the sauce, he mixed together Greek yogurt, sweet Thai chili sauce, and sriracha. Then, he garnished the dip with green onions. The dip had a really unique flavor and it paired perfectly with the shrimp.

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For the protein in the main meal, he made steak. The steaks were simply seasoned with a Hawaiian Alaea (pink) salt, pepper, and paprika. If you want to do that yourself and don’t have the Alaea salt, don’t worry about it – just use any salt you have in your spice cabinet. He grilled the steaks and then let them rest so the juices would “‘re-absorb” into the steaks.

On the side, Jake made oven-roasted sweet potatoes and sauteed brussel sprouts. The sweet potatoes were cubed and seasoned with salt, pepper, and a dash of cinnamon to help bring out some of the sweetness. He roasted them in the oven at 360 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes.

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The brussel sprouts were divine. First, he cooked up maple bacon in a pot on the stove top. Once crisp, he removed the bacon, and added some sliced sweet onion. He cooked those down a bit to soften them. He then added the whole brussel sprouts and added salt, pepper, and sugar. He let that cook on the stove, covered, for about 15 minutes. This gave enough time for the greens to cook and to caramelize the onions. They got that deep brown color and mouth-watering sweet/savory flavor. I’m drooling right now thinking about it! As the last step, Jake crumbled the cooked bacon over the brussel sprouts and tossed to mix.

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I ate a lot of food last night and I refuse to feel guilty about it! Not only was it my birthday, but there’s no way I was leaving any part of my dish untouched. It was just too good.

To top it off, we had dessert. Jake opted to buy the dessert this time instead of baking since he was already going to have his hands full cooking. He knows I’m not a big sweets lover, so he got me two mini fruit tarts. (He got himself a chocolate cupcake with a mint chocolate chip frosting.) Perfect. 🙂 It was the perfect kind of birthday; it was a food-i-licious, no frills, yoga pants, wine drinking, and binge TV watching night with my thoughtful husband.

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Just wait until his birthday in June and you’ll learn about why I’m obligated to make him lobster mac and cheese. 😉

Sincerely,
Fu’d

Black Bean Soup With a Fishy Twist

We typically reserve Monday’s for some sort of fish dish. We had skipped these the past couple of weeks for various reasons, but we are back on track! Tonight was inspired by three things:

  1. Our recent lack of fish
  2. The chillier, rainy day we had here in New England
  3. Seeing some black bean soup recipes while perusing the internet

It was perfect. We had some leftover vegetables from last week that I wanted to use up. Plus, we still had some haddock frozen from Jake’s fishing trip a few weeks ago and fresh garden tomatoes his parent’s gave us a week ago. Additionally, we always carry black beans in our pantry and extra jumbo frozen shrimp in our freezer.

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I didn’t follow a specific recipe for this one – just played on the seasonings that I knew were in some other black bean/taco type dishes I had made before. Here’s what you’ll need:

Produce

  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 2 ears of corn
  • 1 can of low sodium black beans
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • haddock (A pound or less is fine)
  • shrimp (I used 10 extra jumbo)

Seasonings (approximate)

  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon jalapeño pepper powder (optional)

I small chopped one red bell pepper, one green bell pepper, and half a sweet onion. I sauteed that in a pot with a drizzle of olive oil until soft.

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I then chopped up two tomatoes and put them in the pot. I let the tomato juices render out for about 5 minutes.

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I added kernels from 2 ears of corn, a can of rinsed and drained black beans, and approximately 3 cups of chicken broth. Ok, you caught me. I added a splash of red wine, too. 🙂

I added all the seasonings that I mentioned in the list above. Everything simmered for about 10 minutes while I filleted the skin off the haddock.

I actually had decided to use my immersion blender to blend some of the vegetables to give a slightly thicker consistency. Finally, I added the chunks of haddock and added some frozen shrimp. I let it cook for another 5-10 minutes (since the fish and shrimp cook quickly). I finished it off with a squirt of lime juice. Then, it was ready to serve.

I didn’t have any ripe avocados or cilantro on hand, but those would be wonderful additions. In that case, you might even want to add extra lime or serve with lime wedges.

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Overall, I was actually surprised that the fish flavors melded with the black bean soup flavors. I think because the haddock is so mild, it takes on the flavors of whatever you cook it in. Although not the most attractive looking soup, I would make this again! I would love to hear if you try this with some adaptations!

Sincerely,
Fu’d

Air-Fried Plantains: An Alternative Dinner Starch

We try to have a balanced meal most nights, which means we have a protein, vegetables, and a starch. When we’re looking for something a little different than the usual rice or potatoes, we lean towards items like yucca or plantains. Last night, I made tostones, which is basically fried plantain. Although, my twist is that I used my beloved air fryer. (If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, you’d know I absolutely adore my air fryer.) If you don’t have an air fryer, don’t fret. You can do all the prep and pop them in the oven, too!

I’m definitely not an expert on plantains, but here’s what I know – Although plantains are technically a fruit, green plantains have less sugar and more starch. Yellow plantains are more ripe, which means they have higher sugar content and can be used in sweet plantain dishes. I had bought my plantains several days ago, so they were a bit more yellow when I got around to using them.

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To prepare the yucca, you’ll need to soften them. I’ve seen some people cut, peel, and boil it. In this case, the microwave is much easier.

  1. Cut off the ends and makes a few slices through the outer skin. The slices will allow the yucca to breath and release some of that steam. If you’ve ever made a “baked” potato in the microwave, it’s the same concept – you need to poke holes in the potato first.
  2. Microwave for at least five minutes. The skin will turn dark. Be careful when handling them because they will be HOT!20180906_19280720180906_193424
  3. Peel the skin off the plantains.
  4. Slice into one-inch chunks.
  5. Use a flat surface (I used a drinking glass) to flatten each chunk. Hint: If the plantain gets stuck to the bottom of the glass, carefully run a knife between the plantain and the glass.20180906_194055
  6. Place a single layer of flattened plantains into the air fryer.
  7. Spray the tops of the plantain and sprinkled with salt, pepper, and chili powder.
  8. Set it to 400 degrees and cook for approximately 10 minutes, flipping halfway through.

Repeat steps 6-8 until all your plantains are cooked.

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Jake loves dipping the tostones in this mayo/ketchup dip. Just mix relatively equal parts of mayo and ketchup to your taste. I like to add a squirt of sriracha and sprinkle pepper on top.

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The main meal we had last night was steak tips. The tostones were the perfect side, along with some air-fried Parmesan green beans.

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Cheers!

Sincerely,
Fu’d

Lazy Eggplant Parmesan

I am a savory foods lover. Yes, my statement is very definitive. Put a cake and lasagna in front of me and lasagna gets the “W” every time. And although the end of this summer has been unseasonably hot, I still have fall peaking into my mind. Those two reasons together make for the perfect excuse to start cooking up warm and hearty dishes.

This post is about a lazy weeknight eggplant parmesan dinner. What makes this dish lazy/genius is that the eggplant does NOT have to be breaded and pan fried like it does in most other recipes. It saves infinite amounts of time and effort. And guess what – the difference at the end for an average person like me is practically undetectable. Plus, load it up if you want more substance/flavor or load it down if you want something lighter and healthier.

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I originally found a similar recipe years ago that was meant for the slow cooker. (Unfortunately, I don’t have that recipe, but I found a simple one if you’d like to try it. Click here for the Crock Pot Eggplant Parmesan recipe.)

What I did is simple. I don’t specify exact amounts here because I eye-balled it and used ingredients I had laying around the house. And like I mentioned before, load it up or load it down – use the ingredients to your taste.

Ingredients

  • Eggplant
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Garden Tomatoes
  • Mozzarella Cheese
  • Italian Style Bread Crumbs
  • Olive Oil
  • Dried Seasonings – Basil; Oregano; Salt; Pepper

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Directions (Summary)

  1. Slice an eggplant, season the slices, and pre-cook (if desired)
  2. Layer tomato sauce at the bottom of the baking dish
  3. Add the following layers in this order:
    • Pre-cooked eggplant slices
    • Breadcrumbs
    • Freshly sliced tomatoes
    • Tomato sauce
    • Dried seasonings (to taste)
    • Mozarrella cheese
  4. Repeat steps 3 – 8 at least one more time

Directions (Comments & Photos)

Slice an eggplant, season, and pre-cook

I used one medium-sized eggplant, sliced. I sprayed the slices with a little olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. I then popped them into my air fryer for a bit to soften them up. I only did this because I wanted to reduce my overall baking time later. Use more eggplant if you want to create more layers.

If you don’t have an air fryer, consider getting one! I’m a bit biased, as I love mine. (You can read about it here: My Air Fryer: Convection Perfection.) Otherwise, go ahead and bake the slices for a little bit in the oven. If you want to skip the pre-cooking all together, try slicing the eggplant thinner and bake the assembled product a little longer.

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Layer some tomato sauce

I blended some canned San Marzano tomatoes last week to make a margherita pizza and  froze a cup of the leftovers. I defrosted it to use as the sauce in this dish. I recommend you use more sauce than I did. Canned pasta sauce or jarred sauce would work just fine.

I used a 9″ x 13″ glass baking dish. Spray your baking dish first and then layer a little bit of the sauce at the bottom. This probably isn’t necessary, but I always like to put a little coating first.

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Add the rest of the layers and repeat

The rest of the steps from here on are easy peasy.

Layer the pre-cooked eggplant slices so the bottom of the dish is covered. Some overlap  of the slices is OK.

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Then, sprinkle some breadcrumbs. Use as much as you like, but I recommend enough to just barely cover the eggplant slices. I went light on the breacrumbs, as you can see from the photo. Use a little more for more flavor.

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Place some tomato slices over the top. This is a completely optional step. Most eggplant parm recipes don’t use tomato slices like this, but I was given some fresh garden tomatoes. Not only did I think it was a good opportunity to use them up, but I also wanted to counteract the fact that I didn’t have a lot of tomato sauce.

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Pour some of the tomato sauce, making sure to cover any of the areas or cracks that the tomato slices don’t cover. Sprinkle some of the dried seasonings over the tomatoes and sauce. If you have fresh basil, use it! I didn’t have any on hand, so I just used what I have in the spice cabinet.

Spread some mozzarella cheese. I recommend using shredded mozzarella so you can get more even distribution. I had pre-sliced mozzarella in the fridge from last weekend’s pizza, so I tore pieces and evenly distributed. This inadvertently helped me keep the dish light because I didn’t have copious amounts of cheese to saturate throughout.

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Lastly, repeat all those layers at least one more time. If you have more ingredients or want to make it thicker, repeat a third time. Note: I have extra seasonings at the very top because I actually forgot to add seasonings on my second sauce layer and decided to add them after the fact. (See? That’s how flexible this recipe is!)

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I covered my dish with tin foil and baked at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. I took the foil off and increased the temperature to 425 degrees so that I could get some of the golden brown color on the cheese. This will probably take 5-8 minutes or so, but keep an eye on it. You can even choose to broil at the end instead.

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The photo (below) of the eggplant served in the dish is actually 2 servings piled on top of each other. Since my assembled eggplant parm was 2 layers high, the total served portion is 4 layers.

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We had leftovers with just the two of us, so I actually used them for dinner tonight. I paired it with the leftover quinoa salad from Labor Day, and served some air-fried kale on the side. Can’t forget that drizzle of sriracha. Mmm. My favorite!

Good luck!

Sincerely,
Fu’d