Traditional Pork Banh Mi

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I love fall for many reasons.  Cooler weather, lots of fun holidays, and the opportunity to wear my favorite sweaters & scarves.  But most importantly: the television.

Sure, there are some good summer hit shows and my favorite year-long reality shows, but I love fall when there are so many new shows to try out.  I haven’t gotten an opportunity to watch all the shows I wanted, so this weekend Hulu and I are going to get real close and personal.  Tell me- what should I be watching?

If you tell me what to watch, I will tell you what we should be eating as we watch TV (because let’s be honest, lots of us eat diner in front of the TV, right?).  I love a good sandwich, and I especially love any form of banh mi.  Banh mi is the main sandwich of Vietnamese cuisine, and they usually have lots and lots of good stuff stuffed into them.

I have made a sweet potato vegetarian banh mi before, but I really wanted to try a more traditional pork version.  The original recipe involved cooking pork belly, but I just ain’t got time for that so in came pulled pork to save the day. (If you are looking for an amazing crock pot pulled pork recipe, feel free to check out my recipe for carnitas.  I would just advice to leave out the dried spices but do everything else the same).

I may have to whip up one of these babies and watch some good TV soon.

TRADITIONAL PORK BANH MI
Adapted from White on Rice Couple

INGREDIENTS

For the Pork:
2 1/2 cups pulled pork
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Salt, to taste

For the Banh Mi:
French bread, sliced into rolls
Liver pate, thinly sliced
Mayonnaise
Pickled carrot and daikon
Cucumber, thinly sliced
Jalapenos, thinly sliced

DIRECTIONS

For the Pork:

In a saucepan, combine sugar, water, fish sauce, and soy sauce.  Bring to a boil.  Stir in pulled pork and cook until warmed through and most of the liquid is gone.  Keep warm

For the Banh Mi:

Wrap French bread in foil.  Warm in oven.  Cut slit in bread.  Spread mayonnaise on bread.  Top with liver pate, pork, pickled carrot and daikon, cucumber, and jalapenos.

Makes 5-8 sandwiches.

Individual Falafel Pie

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I am so over this thing called “work” and “earning a paycheck”.  Especially when said paycheck technically puts me under the poverty level.  And when textbooks for one class total $138 (when finding the best deals used).  #Gradstudentlifeisfun

So I am particularly excited to head out of town with my mom and take a trip to the northeast next week. Excited as in my neurotic self has been planning/fantasizing for the past month.  We will be visiting family and hitting New York City for a few days.  And while in New York, one goal of mine is to eat lots of food, including falafel.

I have a confession. I use to hate hummus.

At gatherings people would often joyfully announce to us all “Guess what, I have hummus for us!”. Everyone would cheer and gush, and I would remain very quiet. I’d insist I wasn’t hungry or choose the other offerings, leaving the tan dip to those who could stomach it.

Well, I was a fool. Hummus is delicious. As is lots of Greek food.  Now I love to eat hummus on pita chips and carrots, but I also like to mix my hummus with falafel. Chickpea dip on chip baked chickpea balls? I reworked my baked falafel into this single size falafel pizza, mostly to just up the cute factor. This is for when you just want straight falafel and toppings with no pita bread to slow you down.

Also, it’s great if you are looking for a lighter meal- this is a healthy, vegetarian dinner that will leave you happy and satisfied.  I am trying to trim up a little before my vacation (without any actual exercise… because I am tired and/or lazy).  My thinking is that I can just return back to my equilibrium after going hog wild on vacation.  Logic FTW.

If the falafel in New York is good, I may never be coming home.  Mom, you’re okay with 100% supporting me in a listless New York life full of eating and relaxing, right?  Good.

So tell me, what do I need to see in New York? Where should I go? Most importantly, what should I eat?

FALAFEL PIE
Inspired by Heat Oven to 350

INGREDIENTS

For the Falafel:
1 cup dried chickpeas
1/2 red onion, minced
5 cloves of garlic, roasted
2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 tablespoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon coriander (cilantro seeds)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup all purpose flour
Olive oil, for brushing

For the Toppings:
Hummus
Tzatziki
Kalamata olives, halved
Grape tomatoes, halved
Cucumber, chopped
Sweet pickles, chopped
Feta cheese crumbles
Goat Cheese crumbles
Salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS

For the Falafel:

Pour dried chickpeas into a large bowl. Cover with water. Let soak at least 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Drain and rinse the chickpeas. In the food processor, combine chickpeas, onion, garlic, cumin, parsley, coriander, salt, lemon juice, and water. Pulse until mixture forms a paste. Fold in baking powder and flour, until mixture stays together. Add more flour if needed.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide falafel mixture into four portions and form into 5-6 inch circles. Brush tops with olive oil. Bake for 20-23 minutes, rotating pans halfway through.

Top with any mixture of desired toppings. My favorite way is to spread a layer of hummus on the falafel pie and top with olives, tomatoes, cucumber, pickles, and goat cheese. Season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Makes four falafel pies.

Chicken Souvlaki

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Why is grilling a summer event?  Is it logical  to stand in front of a big metal contraption that is 100+ degrees when it is already 100+ degrees outside? And then you have to run in and outside, thus making your AC fight an even harder uphill battle to keep your house somewhat cool/bearable. And mosquitoes?  It takes approximately 5.3 seconds for my to get 6 separate mosquito bites, 3 of them in places that I swear was covered with clothing.  So basically grilling leads to me getting felt up by mosquitoes…and it’s the most action I have gotten in a while.

So you’ll see me this winter in my long underwear (…I promise to wear real pants too) grilling defiantly.  And these summer months you will see me inside standing in directly front of my AC vent in an attempt to get somewhat cool. (Except I won’t be grilling at all since I don’t have a grill, but that is another story entirely.)

Moral of this complaining rant: use a grill pan so you have AC in summer and heat in the winter and grill marks on your food.  Unless you want to stand outside in the heat.  Now that I have solved that problem, let me tackle that one little issue called world peace.

This chicken is light and refreshing, perfect for summer.  Warm, grilled chicken pairs well with cool yogurt and crispy cucumbers.  It will taste wonderful whether you grill it inside or outside. You can go through the entire process of marinating and such, but I won’t lie, sometimes I just splash a mix of the marinade in the pan while I cook the chicken and call it a day.

And looking back at this post I think I may understand why I am single and get those desperate spam e-mails for online dating: I complain a lot, get felt up by mosquitoes, and wear long underwear.  But I can cook! Come and get it, boys.

CHICKEN SOUVLAKI
From Cinnamon Freud

INGREDIENTS

For the Chicken:
1-1 1/2 pounds chicken breast, cut into approximately 4 ounce pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons dried dill
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For the Tztaziki Sauce:
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 cucumber, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried dill
4 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Special tools: cheesecloth/tea towel

For Serving:
Wild Rice
Green onions, sliced

DIRECTIONS

For the Chicken:

In a large ziploc bake or baking sheet, combine olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, dill, oregano, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Add chicken and shake/stir to cover completely.  Marinate for at least 30 minutes (up to overnight).

Prepare your grill.  Grill chicken for 3-5 minutes per side until cooked through (will depend on the thickness of your chicken breast).

For the Tzatziki:

Secure a cheesecloth over a measuring cup.  Spoon yogurt on top.  Refrigerate and let yogurt drain for at least 3 hours.

Place cucumber on a layer of paper towel.  Salt cucumbers and let sit for at least 20 minutes.  Transfer cucumbers to a tea towel and squeeze to remove water.  Transfer drained yogurt from cheesecloth to a large bowl.  Add cucumbers, red wine vinegar, dill, and garlic.  Mix to combine.  Drizzle olive oil on top and season with salt and pepper to taste.
For Serving:
Place chicken on top of rice.  Spread Tzatziki sauce on top.  Garnish with green onions.
If desired, put remaining marinade in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil and cook for 5-7 minutes.  Serve on top of chicken.

Strawberry Balsamic Flatbread with Goat Cheese

 
 
 
Do you ever yearn?  For warmer temperatures?  For spring?  For strawberries?  I am in the midst of some serious spring yearning.  Warmer temperatures, pink lipstick, strawberries, flowers, and capris.  This is a very eclectic spring list, but I got the spring fever.
 
I never thought there would be a time when I would be yearning for warmer temperature here in Texas, but here we are.  While I am not ready for the blazing heat of summer summer and sweating the instant I step outside, I am just tired of being cold. The cold is nice when you can cuddle up in bed under lots of covers, but when you have to get up to function, not so much. I am looking forward to at least not having to double layer my clothes anymore just to stay warm when I leave my apartment in the morning. Yes, I run freakishly cold and have to double layer my clothes in Texas.  Judge away.
 
By the way, a few months from now when I am melting in the summer heat, please do not remind me of this time when I was begging for heat.  I will be hot and sweaty and not receptive to this information.
 
Even though there is some oscillation between cold and warmer temperatures still happening here, I am hoping to finally convince spring to stick around with this pizza recipe using fresh spring flavors. It’s light and a great combo of warm pizza crust and cool, refreshing toppings.  It would be wonderful to eat outside at a picnic table while rabbits hop around you and the birds sing a sweet song. And with one layer of clothing on.  Is it spring yet?
STRAWBERRY BALSAMIC FLATBREAD WITH GOAT CHEESE
Adapted from The Sweets Life
 
INGREDIENTS

For the Crust:

1 package active yeast
1/2 cup water, at 110°F
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
 
For the Flatbread:
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup Italian parsley
2 tablespoons water
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
1 1/2- 2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
Salt and pepper, to taste
DIRECTIONS
 
For the Crust:

Preheat oven to 475°F.

In in small bowl, dissolve yeast in water with granulated sugar.  Let sit about 10 minutes, until foamy.  In a large bowl, combine flour and salt.  Pour dissolved yeast over flour.  Stir together with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms.  On a lightly floured surface, knead dough for about 10 minutes.  Let sit in a warm place and rise for at least 45 minutes to 1 hour.  

For the Flatbread:

Place balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a boil and cook until thick a syrupy.  Keep warm.
In a food processor combine parsley and water.  Process until a chunky paste forms.  Set aside

Divide the pizza dough into 2 equal sized pieces.  Roll out to desired thinness.  Sprinkle about half of the parsley mixture on top of the flatbreads.  Sprinkle flatbread with salt and pepper.  Bake for 10-14 minutes, until golden brown.  Top warm crust with remaining parsley paste, strawberries, cucumbers, and tomatoes.  Drizzle balsamic sauce on top  Season with salt.  Top with crumbled goat cheese.

Serves 2-3.

 

 

Thai Pork and Cabbage Salad

 
Sriracha, known to me as rooster sauce, has scared me for years.  When placed on our family dinner table, it was always situated as far away from me as possible. I knew that rooster sauce was spicy, and I knew that I was not ready to handle it.
 
Well, imagine my own surprise when I was shopping in the grocery store many years later and felt the sudden urge to buy sriracha sauce.  The big bottle that was cheaper per ounce than the smaller bottle even.  I began by slowly adding a few drops to dishes like Pad Thai, but I was not fully utilizing that spice.  Then suddenly I got the urge to put some hot sauce in my scrambled eggs (is it normal for someone to be surprised by themselves so often?).  It was delicious.  I kept adding more, and I think I may now officially be a fan of spice.
 
This dish is perfect for anyone on the spice spectrum: a spice newbie, a spice hater, or a spice lover.  Adjust your rooster sauce to taste.  The crunchy cabbage, the browned pork, and the cool cucumber all come together in a quick meal that is sure to satisfy all.  I highly suggest surprising yourself and trying a lot of sriracha sauce.
 
THAI PORK AND CABBAGE SALAD
Adapted from The Sweets Life
 
INGREDIENTS
 
1 1/2 pounds ground pork
Salt and pepper
1 small head cabbage, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
Sriracha sauce, to taste
1 cucumber, quartered and sliced
Honey roasted peanuts, for topping
Fresh torn mint, for topping
 
DIRECTIONS
 
Heat a large wok over medium-high heat.  Brown pork, seasoned with salt and pepper, until cooked through.  Drain and set aside.  Keep some of the grease in the pan still.
 
Put wok back over medium-high heat.  Cook cabbage, seasoned with salt, until slightly cooked but still crunchy, 4-5 minutes.  Return ground pork to pan.  Add fish sauce, brown sugar, lime juice, and sriracha.  Cook until liquid has mostly evaporated, 3-5 minutes.  
 
Season cucumber slices with salt.  Mix cucumber into salad.  Transfer to a serving bowl or plates and top with peanuts and mint.
 
Serves 3-4 as a man course.

Veggie Flatbread

 
 

What is the difference between a flatbread and a pizza?  Besides an extra $3 at most restaurants for a fancier name, I am not really sure.  In my mind, pizzas usually have a sauce base and cheese while flatbreads are often dressed in oil and vinaigrettes and don’t require cheese.  So I define this dinner as a flatbread.  Call it whatever you want- it will be delicious under any name.

This dish is inspired by a sandwich I tried in Lubbock within my first few days of moving.  After unpacking boxes, assembling furniture, and waiting on movers for two days, my parents and I were in need of a filling lunch that would be quick.  I ate the most amazing vegetarian sandwich at a deli nearby my apartment.  It was so delicious that we ate there again the next day. My parents left, I finally finished unpacking and started adjusting to my new life, but I could not stop thinking about that sandwich.

Since I am a poor student that is often too tried to change out of my PJs and get off my couch, I decided to replicate this dish at home.  I was a little skeptical that my version would not taste as good either due to my cooking ability or the fact that I was really hungry when I first ate the sandwich (and stressed, stressed eating is always a tricky memory).  But my worries were for nothing- this flatbread turned out DELICIOUS.  So delicious that I have eaten it many times, which is huge for me since I tend not to remake the same dinner often. Adding some chicken would be a great addition for those who need their meat.

It’s a vegetarian, filling, and unique flatbread.  Don’t wait- go make it now.

VEGGIE FLATBREAD
 
INGREDIENTS
For the Crust:
1 package active yeast
1/2 cup water, at 110°F
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
 
For the Flatbread:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 portobello mushrooms
Salt and pepper
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 carrots, chopped
3 ounces pimento stuffed green olives, sliced
Pinch of madran curry powder, to taste
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
Olive oil, for brushing
DIRECTIONS
 
For the Crust:

Preheat oven to 475°F.


In in small bowl, dissolve yeast in water with granulated sugar.  Let sit about 10 minutes, until foamy.  In a large bowl, combine flour and salt.  Pour dissolved yeast over flour.  Stir together with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms.

On a lightly floured surface, knead dough for about 10 minutes.  Let sit in a warm place and rise for at least 45 minutes to 1 hour.

For the Flatbread:

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add olive oil and mushrooms.  Season with salt and pepper and cook until tender, 5-6 minutes.  Add red onions and cook an additional 3-4 minutes.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Add carrots and olives to pan. Season with madran curry power and salt. Cook for 4-5 minutes and add sugar and white wine vinegar.  Cook for 3-4 minutes, until most of the vinegar has evaporated.  Add mushrooms and red onion to pan.  Toss and set aside.  Keep warm.

Prepare pizza stone or baking sheet.  Roll out dough to desired thickness.  Brush with olive oil and season with a pinch of salt.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the dough is golden brown.  Top baked dough with mushroom, onion, carrot, and olive topping.  Top with cucumber slices.  Cut into slices and devour.

Serves 2-3.

Greek Burrito

I have been in a serious food rut lately.  Nothing I have been making turns out good.  Actually, it is not just not good- it turns out awful.  It has gotten so bad that I can’t even finish my plate (and I have eaten some seriously gross stuff before).  If you don’t believe me, I ate green and blue onions last night (bad experiment with baking soda).  So the reason for low activity here is because food is not bringing me any inspiration and my time in the kitchen lately has been sparse.
These Greek styled burritos were the last good thing I whipped up- ah, the memories of good food.  The Tex-Mex burrito is filled with Greek flavors.  A delicious dinner is something to be truly appreciated.  Go home today and thank whoever made you a great dinner.
On a side note, today I will be interviewing at my first clinical psychology PhD program.  Wish me good luck!
GREEK BURRITOS
Inspired by KokoCooks
INGREDIENTS
1 cup dried wild rice
Olive oil
1 red onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
20 ounces ground lamb (or turkey)
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried cloves
Salt and pepper, to taste
6 ounces goat cheese
1 tomato, chopped
6-8 flour tortillas
DIRECTIONS
Prepare rice according to instructions.  Keep warm and set aside.
In a large skillet over medium heat,  add enough olive oil to coat the pan.  Add red onion and a pinch of salt.  Cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add garlic and tomato paste.  Cook for 1 minutes.  Add ground lamb and cook until browned, about 6-9 minutes.  Drain off grease, if needed.  Add rosemary, marjoram, and dried cloves.  Cook for an additional minute.  Remove from heat and set aside.
Wrap tortillas in wax paper.  Microwave for 30 seconds, until warm.  Fill each tortilla with rice, lamb mixture, tzatziki, goat cheese, and tomatoes.  Fold the bottom of the tortilla over the filling then fold over the sides.
Serves 4-5.