Thursday, January 30, 2014

Lamb Meatballs

One of my best friends and former college roommate is from Azerbaijan. I, honestly, had never even heard of the country until I met her, but fell in love with all the ethnic food from that region of the world that she introduced me to.

This friend is, seriously, like a sister to me. I guess she actually is a sister... Since we were in the same sorority.... But I always think of her as a friend and roommate first before sorority sister because I didn't join the chapter until after she had graduated.

ANYWAYS... Because I think of her as a sister, her family is like extended family to me. Her mom used to visit us all the time while we were in school and I feel like she is in aunt to me. She is such an awesome, successful, and friendly person - and a great cook! She would always stock us up on Russian and/or Eastern European pastries, stock up our fridge with homemade food, and make us "family" dinners.

For one of our dinners, she made these amazing lamb meatballs with a yogurt dipping sauce. This was probably 3 years ago and I still remembered how delicious they were. I had asked her how she makes them a few weeks after our dinner and, until recently, had never made them! I don't know why!!! Because they are awesome and so easy.

Unfortunately, she doesn't use recipes, so she wasn't able to tell me exactly how she makes them. She said she mostly eyeballs the ingredients and she will also switch up some ingredients depending on what she has already. I'm OK with this because I don't use recipes either. It's more fun that way - you get to experiment and "play" with your food!

Putting this guy to work! He's obviously excited to help because we're cooking meat - a rare occasion.
Using her "recipe" as a guideline, I made my own! She also likes to make traditional food healthier, so it was easy to copy most of her "recipe" and make a few changes based on what I had.

I started by soaking some uncooked brown rice in a little bit of warm water with saffron threads - to try to infuse some of the saffron flavor in to the rice. I soaked for about 20 minutes.

I used half ground lamb and half ground beef, as she suggested. I went for grass-fed beef because the flavor is better and it is leaner than regular beef. Lamb is also pretty lean, so it sounds like a healthy, lean combo for red meats!

I mixed the beef and lamb with the soaked rice and the water it was soaking in. I also mixed in onion, garlic, cilantro, pomegranate seeds, and chopped dried tart cherries. Rolled them in to balls then boiled them in water with a few more saffron threads. Boiling the meatballs rather than frying them or baking them is healthier because you don't add any additional oils, the fat cooks out, and it makes a super moist meatball!

I copied my friend's mom by making a garlic yogurt to dip the meatballs - seriously this stuff is amazing and the perfect accompaniment to these meatballs. We had our meatballs with some roasted eggplant and zucchini and a salad with some baby kale, pomegranate vinegar, pistachio oil, and pomegranate seeds - some feta on this salad would have been perfect if we had some in the fridge!

Yummy dinner. Both Rommel and I are looking forward to making this again!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Post-workout snacks to-go

Fit in 60 has free classes for their anniversary weekend this weekend. I will be doing a review on their studio and barre classes soon!

I went to a barre class at Fit in 60 Carmel Valley with my mom this morning. I was expecting to go home immediately after and make some egg for some post-workout protein and my breakfast. Unfortunately, my mom decided she wanted to pop into work for a little bit immediately after class. So I dropped her off at her office and went on the hunt to find something to replenish my body after our good workout.

I stopped in Fresh & Easy and picked up some aloe juice, a Yoplait Light Vanilla Greek Yogurt, and had half of a ThinkThin Cookies n Cream protein bar. 

I've never seen this flavor of ThinkThin bars before! Not bad! Although my fav is still the crunchy peanut butter - can't resist chocolate and peanut butter at all.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sole Almondine with a twist

For dinner last night, I made sole almondine but with my own little twist. To make it healthier, I did not drench the sole fillet in flour and instead of lots of butter, I used lots of olive oil with the tiniest pat of butter for flavor (just because butter and sole fish are so perfect together). I had lots of fresh tarragon and a lemon tarragon vinaigrette I made the other day, so when making the sauce, I added fresh tarragon, a little vinaigrette, garlic, and fresh lemon zest in addition to the usual toasted almonds and lemon juice.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

It's a lemon and tarragon kind of day

I'm guessing it's lemon season right now.... Can anyone confirm?

In the last month, we have received a whole bag of lemons from my grandma, a whole bag of lemons from Rommel's parents, a few lemons from a friend, and my coworker also brought in a giant basket full of lemons. Before I'm even finished using the ones I already have, someone else gives us more lemons.

I was thinking of making a nice big batch of some sort of lemon vinaigrette. Lemon and tarragon go nicely together. But instead.... typical me.... I started with one idea and went lemon tarragon crazy.

For dinner we had....

Salmon seared on a cast iron with skin side down to create a nice crispy skin then finished off under a broiler then drizzled with some lemon tarragon vinaigrette.

Green beans with garlic, toasted almonds, lemon tarragon vinaigrette, and more fresh tarragon.

Simple salad with baby spring mix lettuce, cucumbers, and lemon tarragon vinaigrette.

Leftover brown rice quinoa pasta noodles with a red pesto sauce - SOMETHING had to have no lemon and tarragon, right?!

I have a nice little batch of lemon tarragon vinaigrette to use for salads for the rest of the week.... Hmmmmmm what else can I do with lemons besides the usual marinades, squeeze on cooked fish/chicken/veggies, and salad dressings?

Tropical pasta salad

My dad gave me this bottle of Matouk's hot sauce the other day. See link -> Matouk's Hot Calypso Hot Sauce. We learned about Matouk's sauce from our family that lives in the Carribean. My dad happened to find some in a store here in the U.S., so he had to pick some up. This hot sauce is seriously YUMMMM. It has an awesome amount of spiciness but still has good flavor behind the heat.

I used it to make a pasta salad for lunch today!
This pasta salad is made with pasta that is made from brown rice and quinoa instead of flour, so it's whole grain, gluten-free, and has protein! I dressed the pasta in citrus champagne vinegar, lemon juice, Matouk's hot suace, and olive oil. I added a bunch of things that I could find in my fridge that I thought would go well with the hot sauce - I really wanted the highlight of this simple lunch to be that yummy Matouk's hot sauce. I added shrimp, bell pepper, pineapple, mango, avocado, red onion, green onion, and cilantro.

Turned out pretty yummy! Fresh tasting and totally satisfied today's craving for spicy food.

Quick & simple soup & salad

I put together this meal when I got back late at night last week from Vegas. I was tired from traffic and the long drive so I didn't want to cook anything too complicated and I also wanted something light because of all the crap I had eaten that weekend.
I threw together spring mix lettuce, baby kale, bell pepper, celery, red onion,  already cooked mini shrimp, and raw tofu sprinkled with furikake and drizzled with soy sauce to flavor. I made a salad dressing out of sesame oil and rice vinegar that I let sit and infuse with garlic and ginger while I prepared the rest of the salad.

The Asian-inspired flavors of this salad worked well with this Trader Joe's Miso Ginger Broth that I had on the side.

I really just wanted something light, so I had this broth plain and it was pretty yummy on its own. But I could see this making an amazing simple soup with some tofu, mushrooms, and/or green onions added to it.