Steamed Whole Fish with Ginger and Black Bean Sauce

Happy Lunar New Year! I celebrated my Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese heritage with a customary whole steamed fish whose head and tail was kept intact, even when served. While dining, the dish is presented with the head of the fish directed at the guest of honor. The flesh is removed and served at the table without disturbing he head or tail. At the end of the meal, you are left with an impressive fish skeleton. It’s almost like a cartoon, where a character puts a whole fish in the mouth, head first, then and pulls out only the bones.

This dish is ridiculously easy to cook and done in 8-10 minutes depending on the size of the fish. Steaming also allows for a margin for error. You are almost guaranteed a moist and flaky fish even if you overcook it. I unintentionally tested this out. I do recommend not overcooking the fish.

This is a Chinese style recipe. The Thai style uses fish sauce in place of soy sauce, lime juice and palm sugar instead of rice wine, adds lemongrass, and of course, a generous amount of Thai bird chili peppers. Although there are a few different ways to prepare the Chinese style, there are typically only 3 basic ingredients (other than the fish itself): fresh ginger, scallion (green onion) and a salty sweetish sauce made of either fermented black bean paste, soy sauce with sugar, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce or some other similar sauce that is salty and slightly sweet.

I selected a combination of light soy sauce and fermented black bean paste as the base for my sauce. Since the black bean paste I used was already sweetened with brown sugar and pineapple juice, I did not add any additional sugar. As we all know, sugar is not good for us and unless it is imperative to what I’m cooking, I avoid adding it. To add a bit more tang, I included a Thai bird chili pepper with the seeds removed for a gentle heat along with white pepper, garlic and rice wine.

Some recipes do not include pouring hot oil over the fish as the final step. I included this step because the hot oil infuses the fish with the flavors of the herbs and spices laid on top of the fish. Some recipes have a larger quantity of sauce poured over the fish. My version offers a smaller amount of sauce poured around the fish. This way, you can enjoy the delicate flavor of the fish with some sauce on the side to compliment it. For me the star of this dish is the delicate fish, infused with ginger, scallions, coriander (cilantro) and a hint of Thai bird chili pepper. The co-star is the black bean sauce.

NOTES:
Any mild whole white fish can be used. A flatter fish steams better. For this recipe, I found a nice barramundi, also called Asian sea bass. Take a moment to inspect the fish before you purchase it. Fresh fish should not smell too fishy. Also, the skin, should be shiny, the flesh should be firm, the gills should be red and the eyes should appear clear. Ask your fish monger to scale and gut the fish.

** Fermented black bean paste is made of dried soybeans that have been fermented with salt and spices such as chili peppers and/or wine and possibly ginger. The brand I used is made with ginger, pineapple juice and tamari. You could use just the fermented black beans, (called Douchi) and take a few additional, but simple steps to rinse the beans, then make your own paste by mashing them with garlic, spices and a little brown sugar or pineapple juice.

*** Chinese rice wine or Shaoxing is not the same as rice wine vinegar so be careful when reading the label. The Japanese rice wine is called mirin and is sweeter. 

Serving size: 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound whole mild white fish*, scaled and gutted, (barramundi, striped bass, flounder, red snapper or branzino), scaled and gutted. (If using a larger whole fish, score** both sides of the fish.)
  • 3 inch nub of ginger, 1/3 julienned and 2/3 cut into large  ¼ inch thick slices (you do not need to remove the skin off of the piece that is julienned)
  • 5 stalks of scallion (green onion), 1/3 julienned and 2/3 cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 – 2 fresh Thai bird chili pepper, julienned (this can be omitted or the seeds can be removed for a milder taste)
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fermented black bean paste
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine (Shaoxing)*** or pale dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon good quality low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons waterhandful of coriander (cilantro) leaves, plucked from the stems
  • couple pinches of Kosher salt or sea salt
  • couple pinches of white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Directions:

  1. Rinse the fish well, both inside and out. If the fish is large (e.g., 2 pounds or more), score it at an angle all the way to the bone on both sides. Remember to score it in the opposite direction on the other side. This will help a larger size fish cook faster and more evenly.
  2. Season with Kosher salt or sea salt and white pepper on both sides and inside of the cavity.
  3. Smash a couple 2-inch stalks of scallions with the side of a knife to release it’s flavor. Place the smash scallions along with a couple large slices of ginger in the cavity of the fish.
  4. Place the remaining 2-inch stalks of scallions and remaining large slices of ginger on the bottom of a steamer basket/insert.
  5. Lay the fish on top of the scallions and ginger. This is important to do if you are steaming the fish on a plate because the ginger helps to elevate the fish, allowing the steam to reach the bottom side of the fish.
  6. Arrange the julienned ginger on top of the fish. Steam for 8-10 minutes for a 1 – 1/2 pound fish.
  7. Increase to 15-18 minutes for a large size fish. The fish is done when the flesh is no longer opaque, is flaky and lifts easily off the bone.
  8. While the fish steams, whisk together minced garlic, black bean paste, rice wine, soy sauce, sesame oil and water. Over medium heat, simmer in a small sauce pan with a lid on for 3-4 minutes then reduce the heat to low to keep it warm.
  9. Carefully remove the fish from the steamer basket and onto a serving plate. If using a plate, discard any liquid. It will not contribute good flavor and may even be bitter.
  10. Remove and discard the large pieces of ginger and scallion on the bottom side of the fish and inside the cavity but keep the julienned ginger on top of the fish.
  11. Top the fish with julienned scallions, Thai bird chili pepper and cilantro. Heat vegetable oil until hot and smoking. Pour the black bean sauce around the fish. If you prefer, pour the sauce directly over the fish. Some chefs recommend pouring the sauce around the fish so the sauce does not overwhelm the delicate flavor of the fish.Pour the hot oil over the fish. The hot oil will infused the fish further with the flavors from the scallions, coriander and Thai bird chili pepper.
  12. Smash a couple 2-inch stalks of scallions with the side of a knife to release it’s oil. Place the smash scallions along with a couple large slices of ginger in the cavity of the fish.
  13. Place the remaining 2-inch stalks of scallions and remaining large slices of ginger on the bottom of a steamer basket. Lay the fish on top of the scallions and ginger. This is important to do if you are steaming the fish on a plate because the ginger helps to elevate the fish, allowing the steam to reach the bottom side of the fish.
  14. Arrange the julienned ginger on top of the fish.
  15. Steam for 8-10 minutes for a 1 – 1/2 pound fish. Increase to 15-18 minutes for a large size fish. The fish is done when the flesh is no longer opaque, is flaky and lifts easily off the bone.
  16. While the fish steams, whisk together minced garlic, black bean paste, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil and water. Over medium-low heat, simmer in a small sauce pan with a lid for a couple minutes then reduce the heat to low to keep it warm.
  17. Carefully remove the fish from the steamer basket and onto a serving plate. If using a plate, discard any liquid. Remove and discard the large pieces of ginger and scallion on the bottom side of the fish and inside the cavity but keep the julienned ginger on top of the fish.
  18. Top the fish with julienned scallions, Thai bird chili pepper and cilantro.
  19. Heat vegetable oil until hot and smoking.
  20. Pour the black bean sauce around the fish. If you prefer, pour the sauce directly over the fish. Some chefs recommend pouring the sauce around the fish so the sauce does not overwhelm the delicate flavor of the fish.
  21. Pour the hot oil over the fish. The hot oil will infused the fish further with the flavors from the scallions, cilantro and Thai bird chili pepper.
No need to scrape the skin off of the ginger for the larger slices. Those will be discarded after the fish is steamed, along with the larger cuts of scallions.
Placing the larger cutes of ginger and scallion under the fish is important when the fish is steamed on a plate. Elevating the fish allows the steam to circulate under the fish.

This guy just fits into the steamer basket. I initially placed the larger cuts of ginger on the top of the fish and then discarded it. Instead, place the julienned ginger on top and don’t discard it. Only discard the large pieces of ginger and scallion placed on the bottom and inside the cavity. The julienne ginger will serve as a nice garnish and tender for consumption.
Coriander (cilantro) is optional. Some people do not like the taste of it. This is genetic.
There’s tender cheeks left here. It may arguably be the best part. Shhh … don’t tell anyone.
Add some dumplings and rice with a side of vegetables. The result is an elegant, easy to prepare and healthy dinner, any time, not just on Lunar New Year.

Turkey Chili

Turkey Chili, loaded with vegetables is easy and nutritious main course, perfect for a crowd on Super Bowl Sunday or for the family, as a weeknight dinner. Serve it with tortilla chips, over a baked potato or with corn bread.

This recipe can be made in a large, heavy duty pot but I prefer using a slow cooker. Preparing the chili the night before, then letting it slow cook all day for 4-8 hours, allows all the flavors to develop. Who wouldn’t enjoy coming home to a steamy pot, all ready to be consumed? In the words of Marie Kondo, this sparks joy in my world. I mean, I’ve “kon-mari’d” dinner into one pot, right?

This recipe uses lean ground turkey and loads up on vegetables. Unsweetened cocoa is the secret ingredient that adds depth and a “meaty” flavor, mimicking a traditional beef chili. As you may know, cocoa marries well with spices. I use four different chili spices: green chilis, Ancho chili, chili powder and a fresh Thai bird chili. Each contributes their own flavor and heat. The Ancho chili adds a little smokiness while the Thai bird chili adds a lot of heat. Since you may not have the option to pluck only one or two Thai bird chili peppers off of a plant like I did, you can simply increase the amount of chili powder. Be aware though, that most chili powder sold in the spice aisle, also contain garlic, salt and other ingredients. That might change the flavor of your chili. I also find that the amount of heat can vary from plant to plant, and from spice jar to spice jar.

The beans can be substituted for another variety or you may opt to use more of the same type of bean. You could even replace the roasted corn with chopped celery. Is there a wrong way to make chili? I casually asked friends what their secret ingredients in chili were. Their answers included riced cauliflower, peas, roasted tomatoes, roasted Poblano peppers, chocolate, cocoa powder, and cinnamon. I like to play with adding Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce too. Some people prefer beer over chicken or beef stock. Basically sky’s the limit.

* Note: You can always add more heat so start with 1 Thai bird chili pepper and 1 tablespoon chili powder. I prefer 2 Thai bird chili peppers and 1 ½ tablespoons of chili powder. As mentioned, most chili powder sold in the spice aisle, also contain garlic, salt and other ingredients so I prefer increasing the amount of heat with a fresh Thai bird chili pepper. Take care to wash your hands when handling and you might want to remove the seeds. It can be very spicy.

Serving size: 12

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 pounds of lean light meat ground turkey
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste, preferably from a tube which has a more intense flavors
  • 1 – 2 fresh Thai bird chili pepper*
  • 1 – 2 tablespoon chili powder*
  • 1 teaspoon Ancho chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 – 28 ounce good quality diced tomatoes or whole tomatoes, mashed
  • 1 – 4 ounce can of fired roasted green chiles
  • 2 bell peppers, diced (red, yellow, orange or green)
  • 2 cups roasted frozen corn (can substitute with fresh roasted corn and plain frozen corn)
  • 1 – 12 ounce can of kidney beans, with liquid
  • 1 – 12 ounce can of black beans, with liquid
  • 1 – 12 ounce can of garbanzo beans (chick peas), drained
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 – 2 ½ cups of chicken stock (stock is richer than broth)
  • Optional ingredients: sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, sliced green onion, diced onion, chopped cilantro, sliced Jalapeno peppers, tortilla chips, corn bread or baked potato

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet over medium high heat, add olive oil and sauté diced onion, until translucent.
  2. Add ground turkey and sauté, breaking up the meat until just cooked through.
  3. Add the garlic, tomato paste and all the spices and sauté for a couple minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  5. In a nonstick pot of a slow cooker, add diced tomatoes, green chiles, bell peppers, frozen corn, beans and cocoa powder. Add the cooled and cooked turkey mixture. Then add the chicken stock and combine.
  6. Cover with the lid and refrigerate overnight, if preparing this the night before.
  7. Set slow cooker on low for 4 – 8 hours.
  8. Serve over baked potatoes, with a side of corn bread or topped with tortilla chips. Add shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, sliced green onion, freshly diced onion, chopped cilantro or sliced Jalapeno pepper.
  9. To freeze, allow to cool to room temperature and freeze for up to 3 months.

Beef Fajitas with Poblano Peppers, Bell Peppers and Onions

Fast and healthy dinners for the family are no Poblano, especially when loading it with lots of nutritious bell peppers, Poblano peppers, and onions. You can bump the nutritional value of this meal even further by serving it with homemade guacamole, made from nutrient dense and heart-healthy avocadoes.

You may already know that bell peppers are high in vitamin C, but did you know that Poblano peppers are high in vitamins A, B6 and B2? Vitamin A, is an antioxidant that protects the body from oxidative stress and prevents macular degeneration, a condition which can lead to blindness as we age. Studies show that vitamin B6 affects memory and brain function, including our mood and concentration. This is because vitamin B6 is necessary for the production of norepinephrine and serotonin which controls our mood and concentration. A deficiency of B6 contributes to Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin B2 helps to prevent and treat anemia.

Poblano pepper also contains capsaicin, which gives the pepper its heat, although it’s relatively mild, especially if you remove all the seeds. Capsaicin has many health benefits, including increased metabolism and appetite suppression, which contributes to a decrease in body weight.

Another compelling reason to include Poblano peppers in this recipe is that its mild heat and flavor contributes nicely to all the complex flavors in this dish.

What I also like about fajitas is that it stretches the quantity of protein. The proper portion of protein is about the size of a deck of cards. If your habit is to consume a larger portion of protein, you may feel unsatisfied. Loading up with veggies, guacamole and pico de gallo is a tasty way to fill the belly and create a new habit of protein portion control.

* NOTE:  What’s the difference between skirt, flank or flap steak? Check out https://www.thekitchn.com/whats-the-difference-between-flank-steak-and-skirt-steak-meat-basics-212263  for the lesson on skirt versus flank. As for flap steak, which is also called sirloin tip, this was recommended to me by the butcher because they didn’t have skirt steak when I tested this recipe. The flank steak they had seemed fatty and the butcher said he’d prefer to have a fajita made from flap steak anyways because it’s the cut below the sirloin and in his opinion, tastier. I took his word for it. If you are reading this, I’m curious if you have an opinion on skirt versus flank versus flap steak?

Serving size: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 1 1/4 pounds of skirt, flank or flap steak (also called sirloin tip)*
  • juice of 1 orange
  • juice of 1 lime
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup of olive oil + enough olive oil to coat peppers and onion
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • pinch of Kosher salt
  • 2-3 bell peppers, depending on size (red, yellow and orange), sliced thinly
  • 2 Poblano peppers, seeds removed and sliced thinly
  • 1 small or ½ large yellow onion, sliced
  • flour or corn tortillas, warmed (we like to wrap our tortillas in foil and warm it in a preheated oven set at 250F)
  • pico de gallo or J’Wow’s Salsa (optional)
  • salsa (optional)
  • sour cream (optional)
  • sliced Jalapeno peppers (optional)
  • homemade guacamole (optional)

Directions:

  1. Prepare the marinade by whisking together orange juice, lime juice, lime zest, garlic, olive oil, cilantro, cumin, chili, coriander, oregano and salt together. Place the steak in a ziplock bag and pour the marinade over the steak. Seal the bag and massage the marinade into the meat to ensure it’s evenly distributed. Marinade the beef in the refrigerator for at least an hour but longer is better.
  2. In a separate bowl, drizzle olive oil over the onions and peppers. Season with a pinch of Kosher salt.
  3. Allow the meat to come to room temperature before cooking.
  4. Heat a grill skillet over medium-high heat. Brush the grill with vegetable oil unless using a non-stick skillet. Cook the meat for about 4 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness. Then place the meat on a plate and cover with aluminum foil. Let it rest for at least 10 minutes.
  5. While the meat rests, add the peppers and onions to the grill pan and cook until the veggies start to brown and soften. Alternatively, you can sauté the veggies in a cast iron skillet. Cast iron skillets are a great way to add iron to your diet.
  6. Just before the vegetables are finished, slice the meat thinly, on an angle and against the grain.
  7. Serve with warm tortillas with your choice of pico de gallo, salsa, homemade guacamole, sour cream and Jalapeno peppers. We enjoyed our fajitas with pico de gallo and homemade guacamole.

Poblano peppers are relatively mild, especially if unripened (green) and de-seeded and de-veined. When allowed to ripen and turn red, then dried, it is called “Ancho” The green version adds a mild and interesting flavor to the fajitas.

Skirt, flank and flap cuts of beef can be chewy. Marinading in an acid, like orange and lime juices, helps to break down some of connective tissue and membrane. Cutting the meat after resting it for about 10 minutes, on an angle and against the grain tenderizes the meat. This is what it looks like to cut with the grain. The acid in the marinade did it’s job and tenderized the meat but it was definitely chewier than the piece of meat in the photo below.
Here is what it looks like to cut against the grain. Hmm, tender and juicy.

I often enjoy fajitas without the tortilla, which turns it into a low carb dinner.

Linguine with Mussels and Tomato Sauce

Mussels. Not the gun show in between my shoulder and elbow, although I really should start pumping iron during the off-season. I’m referring to the bivalve molluscs. And speaking of iron, they are nutrient dense with iron, zinc and vitamin B12.

I didn’t love mussels until I visited Les Halles in New York City over 20 years ago. Fans of Anthony Bourdain will know this restaurant was the backdrop to his infamous tell-all best seller, “Kitchen Confidential”. As I recall, Les Halles offered mussels prepared at least 6 different ways. They were served with the most delicious side of pommes frites (French fries). These were among the best fries I’ve ever had. Moules à la Normande was my favorite style. I highly recommend you buy a nice loaf of French bread and find this recipe in his cookbook. You’ll want to soak up all the sauce with the bread or slurp it with a spoon. Although you can search for the recipe on the web, I encourage you to buy the cookbook or borrow it from your local library. You’ll discover so many other recipes which made Les Halles and Tony famous.

Now that I’ve told you where to find one of my most favorite recipes, here’s what you can do with the other half of the ginormous bag of mussels you might have bought at Costco to make Moules à la Normande.

Linguine with Mussels with Tomato Sauce is a fast family meal and a great follow-up to Moules à la Normande.

Serving size: 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of mussels, scrubbed, de-bearded and rinsed*
  • ¾ pound of linguini or spaghetti
  • 1 – 28 ounce can of good quality crushed, diced or whole tomatoes, (roughly crushed if not already crushed)
  • 4 slices of think bacon, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced crosswise
  • ¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup of dry white wine
  • 1/3 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest, freshly grated
  • Pinch of salt or sugar (optional)

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. When the water comes to a boil, follow the package instructions for cooking the pasta.
  2. Using a wide skillet with lid over medium-high heat, sauté bacon until it starts to brown slightly and fat is rendered. Add shallot and continue stirring occasionally until bacon is almost fully cooked. Watch the shallots so they don’t get too brown. Add minced garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir for about 30 seconds. Add white wine. Bring to a boil to cook off some of the alcohol and then add crushed tomatoes. Taste. If the sauce is too acidic, add a bit of sugar to taste. I prefer to avoid adding sugar but sometimes the canned tomatoes are a bit too acidic. You may also want to add salt however I typically find that no additional salt is necessary.
  3. Add mussels. Cover with lid and cook, giving the pan a good shake a couple of times over 2 to 4 minutes, until the mussels open up. Discard any mussels that do not open up.
  4. Place cooked and drained pasta in individual pasta bowls or one big platter/pasta serving bowl. Ladle the mussels and tomato sauce over the pasta. Sprinkle with with lemon zest and chopped parsley before serving.

* NOTE: Mussels should be scrubbed well, de-bearded. Farm-raised mussels may already be filtered, scrubbed and de-bearded saving a lot of prep time. If the mussels need to be de-beared, start the cleaning process about an hour before cooking. Begin by creating a iced saline solution. Some sources recommended a 3% saline solution which is similar to the natural environment mussels live in. Apparently tap water can kills mussels.

In a large bowl with water and ice, stir in about 1/4 cup of Kosher salt per 3 cups of water, and 3-4 tablespoons (about 1/4 cup) of flour. The mussels will consume the flour and hopefully expel any sand, ensuring a more pleasant dining experience. Add ice to keep the water nicely chilled. Then add the mussels, tossing out any mussels with broken shells or remain open after you tap them. Sometimes I de-beard the mussels prior to placing them in the ice water solution. Sometimes I de-beard them just before I’m ready to cook because the process of de-bearding (removing the filament) can kill the mussel. It seems that you can get the mussels to release the filament without killing it by pulling the beard towards the “hinged” part of the shell.

Discard any mussels that remain open prior to cooking. A live mussel will close up when touched, then open up after cooking.rinsing the mussels.

If using whole canned tomatoes, crush them roughly with a potato masher.

Easy Ramen Chicken Soup

Soup is comfort and love in a bowl. Whenever I visited my parents, one of my mother’s many loving offerings included homemade soup. Today it was my turn to make the offering. My darling came home early from work with a low grade fever and headed straight for bed. I needed to get him some nourishment pronto. It needed to be easy to digest and quick to prepare. A quick assessment of our inventory revealed the usual staples on hand: chicken broth, ramen noodles, eggs, garlic, ginger, scallions and carrots. A fortuitous supply of bok choy, Napa cabbage and shiitake mushrooms left over from another meal spelled out “ramen soup” in my head, in flashing neon lights. I quickly ran off to purchase a store roasted chicken. About 40 minutes in the kitchen later, I offered him love in a bowl.

My version of Easy Ramen Chicken Soup uses both prepared broth and dried seasonings. Traditional Japanese ramen uses fresh noodles and the broth is created over many hours from ingredients like kelp, chicken or pork. Korean style ramen uses dried noodles and dried powdered seasoning. I love both styles so I took a short-cut, combining a bit of both and used a Chinese 5-spice powder. Please forgive me.

Serving size: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 store roasted chicken, sliced; wings and bones removed and reserved (omit or substitute with tofu for vegetarian version)
  • 2 – 32 ounce low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon or about 2 inches of freshly grated ginger
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons of Chinese 5-spice (start with 1 teaspoon and add more to taste)
  • 1/4 cup of low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 4 eggs, rinsed
  • 6 ounces of ramen noodles (I like the millet & brown rice ramen which is gluten-free)
  • 4 cups of bok choy, napa cabbage or baby spinach (rough cut the bok choy or cabbage into 2 inch pieces)
  • 2 cups carrots, grated or cut match stick size (Trader Joe’s sells grated and washed carrots)
  • 12 fresh shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 stalks green onion, thinly sliced
  • hot chili oil or sriracha hot chili sauce (optional)

Directions:

  1. Remove the chicken wings and set aside. Remove the meat from the thigh and leg, and set the bones aside. Careful, the chicken will be hot internally.
  2. In a medium pot, combine the wings, bones, broth, soy sauce, onions, ginger, garlic and 5-spice. Bring to a boil, then lower to medium-low heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.
  3. In another medium pot, bring water to a boil. Add the rinsed eggs and boil for about 7 – 9 minutes. (I prefer a 7 minute softer boiled egg.) You will want to rinse the eggs before because they will be cooking in the same boiling water as the ramen noodles. Cook the noodles according to package instructions, timing it so the eggs and noodles finish cooking at the same time. For example, the ramen noodles I purchased needed only 4 minutes to cook. So added the eggs to the boiling water and set the kitchen timer for 3 minute. After the eggs cooked for 3 minutes, I added the noodles, and set the timer for an 4 additional minutes.
  4. Once the eggs and noodles are cooked, remove the eggs and place them in cold water. This will make it easier to peel the egg shell.
  5. Using tongs, portion out the noodles into individual large bowls. Rinse out the pot and set it aside to use again. IMG_6241If you are on a gluten-free diet, I recommend this millet and rice ramen noodle brand.  IMG_6239
  6. Prepare the vegetables and finish slicing the chicken meat while the broth simmers.    IMG_6237.jpg
  7. Place the chicken on top of the noodles. Remember, a serving size of protein should be the size of a deck of cards (about 3-4 ounces). I tend to consume about 2 ounces or less for myself or I just omit the chicken since the egg is a source of protein.
  8. Peel the eggs and slice in half. Place two halves in each bowl. IMG_6244
  9. Once the broth has been simmering for about 30 minutes, turn off the heat. Place a fine meshed strainer over the empty pot used to boil the noodles and eggs. Carefully ladle the very hot broth over the strainer, transferring all the broth to the other pot. I like to pick out the onions and throw them back into the broth. You might find some good little pieces of chicken meat to toss back in too. Discard the bones and other solids.
  10. Carefully taste the hot broth and adjust the seasoning. You might be tempted to add a little hot chili oil or sriracha sauce too. Turn the heat back on to bring the broth back to a simmer. Toss in the grated carrots, greens and mushrooms. Stir and simmer for 2 minutes to soften the vegetables.
  11. Ladle over the noodles and chicken. Top with sliced green onions. Deliver with love. IMG_6175 IMG_6251

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meyer Lemon & Blueberry Yogurt Pancakes

Through the chill in the air and dark winter season, sweet fruits are bursting on trees in Northern California. Bright, round and juicy, lemons and oranges poke through the trees like a ray of sunlight during our rainy season. Citrus are in abundance, everywhere …

lemonpancakes11

… except at my house. If you look hard, you might be able to find the second orange. So far our total year-to-date yield are 5 oranges. [Sigh.]

lemonpancakes10

We are working on solving this issue. Until then we have generous neighbors who share their fruits and I was able to pick up ten juicy Meyer lemons, for a couple of dollars at a local market.

Meyer lemons are mostly grown in California backyards. Sweet, fragrant and less acidic than other lemons, Meyer lemons are wonderful to cook with and my favorite lemon. With ten lemons in hand, I’d better get started!

After an ultra-distance equivalent of rainfall, we finally saw the sun break through. I celebrated with bright and cheerful Meyer Lemon & Blueberry Yogurt Pancakes. Made without sugar, these pancakes are naturally sweetened by the lemons and fresh blueberries. You may insist on topping them with maple syrup or powdered sugar, but try them without first. I enjoyed them naked.

Serving size: 2 (about 6 pancakes)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice (about 1 big juicy lemon)
  • zest of one whole Meyer lemon
  • 3/4 cup of fresh blueberries
  • 1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

lemonpancakes

In another small bowl, whisk the egg lightly, then stir in yogurt and milk until combined.

lemonpancakes3

Then add the flour mixture until just combined. The batter may appear a little lumpy. This is perfectly fine. You should avoid over-mixing.

lemonpancakes5

Stir in lemon juice, lemon zest* and blueberries.

* You may want to reserve a bit of the zest or zest another Meyer lemon to use as garnish. I recommend this if using whole wheat flour instead of white flour. You may find that the whole wheat flour flavor overshadows the delicate Meyer lemon flavor.

lemonpancakes6

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 to 1 tablespoons of butter. The skillet is hot enough for the batter when drops of water sizzles immediately upon contact.

Using a ladle or big spoon, add the batter. Depending on the size of your spoon, you may need to add another spoonful or two. You can gently shape the pancakes into nice round circles when you add more batter.

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The pancake is ready to be flipped when bubbles appear and a few of them pop. I admit that I cheat a little and lift up the edge of the pancake to check if it’s golden brown. Then carefully flip. TIP: Get the spatula completely under the pancake. This will help you to flip it.

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Continue to cook it for a couple more minutes until golden brown on the other side. Serve them immediately.

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I enjoyed these pancakes with and without syrup. The Meyer lemon and blueberries provides a natural sweetness that I found satisfying. Since I’ve stopped adding sugar to my coffee and cut back on sugar in general, I find fruits deliciously sweet. You can also sprinkle some powdered sugar on top but try topping with more Greek yogurt, more blueberries and garnish with a little sprinkle of grated Meyer lemon rind. I’m [not] sorry to say that I ate the pancakes before I thought of photographing the pancakes like that. You’ll just have to try it yourself and let me know how pretty it looks.

UPDATE:

One of my triathlon pals asked if she could use whole wheat flour. I tested it out and the pancakes were tasty. Whole wheat flour does have a denser and almost bitter flavor. I would suggest increasing the amount of lemon zest as the whole wheat flour flavor may overshadow the delicate Meyer lemon flavor. Or add a dollop of Greek yogurt and garnish with lemon zest. A bit of lemon zest in every bite will help to amplify the lemon notes.

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A Healthy Three Course New Year’s Breakfast

Cheers to a Happy and Healthy New Year, Hungry Athlete Style!

Wishing everyone good fortune in health, family and love. While some of us celebrated the end of 2015 with joy and cheer, some of us experienced tragic personal loss. While some of us look forward to new challenges in 2016, others must bravely face daunting uncertainties. My wish to everyone is to have the strength, wisdom and support to deal with whatever 2016 brings.

“The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably deal with.” ~ Tony Robbins

And may we have gratitude, every day in 2016, for the things and people we are fortunate to have in our lives.

I will begin with gratitude for you, whomever you are, for taking the time to read this! I hope my blog and recipes bring a little joy to your world. I am, of course, very grateful for my family and friends.

I am also grateful and honored to be a part of Team Betty 2016! This is my second year as an ambassador for Betty Designs, a pretty rad line of stylish, functional and high quality cycling, swimming, running and athletic wear for women designed by a pretty cool athlete, mom, graphic artist and entrepreneur named Kristin Mayer who’s mottos are “Badass is Beautiful” and “Do Epic Shit”.   I was fortunate to be invited by Kristen to join a team of 200+ inspiring female athletes, mostly triathletes and ultra runners, from all over the world.

Last year I had the pleasure of meeting teammate Katherine in Arizona. Katherine happens to be the inspiration for my first post in 2016! Katherine asked me for advice on a healthy three-course breakfast she wanted to prepare for her husband on New Year’s Day. I suggested starting the first course with a Greek yogurt parfait, followed by an egg & vegetable casserole and a chocolate avocado mousse for the final course.

Here’s what Katherine made:

“We began with an acai bowl-style gluten-free Greek yogurt fruit dish, followed with an egg bake of vegetables, Gruyere and mozzarella, and sausage. Finally, a dessert of Ghirardelli avocado mousse.”

Looks and sounds amazing Katherine! Katherine is well versed in healthy eating and shared her story about how good nutrition helped her increase speed and move up in her age group, podium and qualify for USAT Nationals. Katherine’s inspiring story can be found here.

As for the Hungry Athlete, for my very first meal on New Year’s day, I prepared my Simple Granola to accompany Greek yogurt, then poached eggs served over smoked salmon and asparagus sautéed in olive oil. A clementine and mimosa were the sweet notes in this orchestra of flavors.

 

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A couple days later, after my first group trail run of the year, I invited the gang over for a brunch and served my Egg, Vegetable and Croissant Breakfast Casserole, my  Simple Granola and Alton Brown’s overnight cinnamon rolls. No, the cinnamon rolls are not healthy nor do I want to try to attempt a healthy version. I believe in indulging when the time is right and after a wet, cold and hard trail run, my friends earned cinnamon buns for running that extra mile.

Want to host a healthy 3-course breakfast, most of which you can prepare, stress-free by prepping the day in advance? Here’s The Hungry Athlete’s Three-Course Healthy Breakfast:

First Course: Greek Yogurt Fruit Parfait with Homemade Simple Granola, Raspberries, Blueberries and Pomegranate Seeds

Second Course: Egg, Vegetable and Croissant Breakfast Casserole

Third Course:  Chocolate Cinnamon Avocado Mousse

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First Course: Greek Yogurt Parfait with Homemade Granola, Raspberries, Blueberries and Pomegranate Seeds

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Egg, Vegetable and Croissant Breakfast Casserole (here with vegetarian sausage, caramelized onion, mushroom, broccoli and Manchego cheese)

Chocolate Cinnamon Avocado Mousse
Chocolate Cinnamon Avocado Mousse