It’s Saturday as I’m writing this, one thirty in the afternoon and it’s the first time I’ve sat down since I woke up this morning. Weekends are for relaxing (aren’t they? Or do I have that wrong?). My weekends are more work than my weekdays lately. I have two days to clean the house, run errands (grocery shopping), spend time with my toddler (who is a full-time job) and work on Love and Duck Fat.
On Sunday I cook as much as I can to make sure we have healthy, home-cooked meals for the week. This Thai beef lettuce wrap recipe is one of our new favorites.
Gluten-Free, Paleo, Real Food, Organic, Grass-fed…however you want to label them; these beef lettuce wraps are a delicious, healthy recipe to add to your weekday meal lineup. I like to make a double batch of the beef filling and use it for dinner one night, and then use the leftovers in an Asian beef salad the next day.
Beef lettuce wraps are light, flavorful and full of crunchy texture. They are easy to make too. I usually keep a few pounds of grass-fed, organic ground beef in my freezer to pull out for meals later in the week. Ground beef is one of those versatile, affordable staples that make a busy schedule just a little easier.
When life is busy (and a little overwhelming) in times like these, you know what I do? More!
Yep. I committed to working out 20 minutes a day on top of everything else so I can manage my stress and get in better shape. I’m almost through my first week, and it’s hard, but I need to do something for myself–even if a toddler is climbing all over me while I’m trying to do yoga.
It’s a lot to handle, and sometimes I think I should just quit Love and Duck Fat for a while—I mean, why am I here? I’m certainly not getting paid (much beyond expenses) for my time, and blogging takes a LOT of my time. There’s recipe creating, cooking, photographic, photo editing, writing, social media promotion, emails to answer, blog maintenance.
I’m not complaining. After all, I started this blog and I’m very proud of it. I’m compelled to keep doing it—and maybe someday it will lead to something that would make the hours worthwhile in a more monetary sense. That would be nice…to be valued enough for what I do to get paid for it so I don’t have to go to that OTHER job where I feel like what I’m doing could be done by anyone.
Love and Duck Fat is all mine, and that’s why I’m taking the few quiet moments of my day (when my son is napping) to sit here and share this Thai beef lettuce wrap recipe with you. I would love to hear what you think about handling a busy schedule, priorities and blogging. You do you do it? Please share in the comments!
Rinse the lettuce leaves and pat dry, keeping them whole by cutting the stalk and peeling away the leaves one by one.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan and add the chili flakes and ginger. Cook for 1 minute until fragrant but not brown. Add the onion and carrot and cook for 5-6 minutes, until soft. Add the beef and sauté beef until nearly cooked. If using Grass-Fed beef it is usually lower in fat and you may not need to drain the grease.
Add the garlic, water chestnuts, mushrooms, soy sauce, fish sauce to the beef mixture. Cook until mixture is lightly browned.
Cut half the lime and squeeze juice over the beef mixture. Slice the remaining lime and use as garnish. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.
Garnish with scallions and serve with lettuce leaves and optional dipping sauce.
Mix all ingredients together and stir until combined. Garnish with scallions.
I am continuing my quest to explore the limits of the deviled egg and this one is the most fun so far! Sushi deviled eggs hit all the right notes for a show-stopping appetizer: delicious, fun-to-eat, elegant and beautiful.
They are easy to make, too. The hardest part about making these sushi deviled eggs is getting those little tobiko eggs (flying fish roe) in the seaweed. You can avoid the hassle altogether by making an indentation in the wasabi-yolk and scooping a mound of tobiko on top. Stick a little piece of seaweed on top and you have an elegant appetizer any expensive restaurant would be happy to serve.
I get my tobiko (also known as tobikko) from a Russian market near downtown Miami called Marky’s Caviar. If you are a serious foodie in Miami searching for an experience; I highly recommend a stop in Marky’s. It’s like going to Disney World. Without rides…and lots of fish eggs.
So maybe it isn’t like Disney World. But if I had a choice of one or the other (money aside), I would probably choose Marky’s.
Marky’s sells tobiko in little glass jars for around $5.00. It’s not expensive, and it comes in all sorts of pretty colors: red, green, black and orange. It’s the same stuff you see on top of sushi. Tobiko is sweet and salty and pops in your mouth. I could seriously eat it by the spoonful.
I suggest serving these with some pickled ginger on the side. They don’t need soy sauce, but you could offer it (or maybe some ponzu) at your next dinner party. I don’t actually have many dinner parties myself nowadays with a toddler underfoot, but if I did, these sushi deviled eggs would be at the top of my must-have appetizer list.
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Wasabi Deviled Eggs
Yield: Makes 16 eggs
Note: I made these green with a sprinkle of matcha tea powder. If you add enough wasabi to make the yolks green, you just may choke from how spicy they are.
Note: If making ahead, boil and peel the eggs. Store them submerged in water in a food container until you are ready to assemble (1-2 days).
Place eggs in a medium saucepan in a single layer. Add 1 teaspoon of baking soda and enough water to cover eggs completely (the baking soda helps them to peel). Bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes. Cover and remove from heat. Allow to sit for 10 minutes. Drain and run cold water over the eggs or place into an ice bath to cool.
Carefully peel the eggs. Cut them in half lengthwise or crosswise. If you are cutting them crosswise, slice off a tiny slice at the rounded bottom of each egg half so they sit upright.
Scoop or pop out the yolks into a bowl. Mash with a fork until very smooth. Add the mayonnaise, wasabi and vinegar. Season with salt and matcha tea powder (optional). Pipe or spoon the wasabi egg yolk into the egg whites.
With scissors, cut the seaweed sheets into 1/2 inch strips about 2 ½ inches long. Dip your finger in water and wet one end of the strip. Roll into a circle or oval shape and insert into the center of each egg yolk.
Using a very small spoon or chopsticks, fill the seaweed with tobiko caviar. Serve with pickled ginger (optional).
Do you want even more elegant deviled egg recipes? Check out these:
Finding ways to make fresh, healthy food at home is one of my passions, and pickled onions are a staple we keep on hand at all times. My husband is a big onion fan and I’m a big pickle fan—so a batch of these spicy pickled onions goes quickly in our home. It only takes 5 minutes to make a batch of these colorful sweet/tart/spicy treats, so there’s no excuse not to try them—unless of course, you don’t like onions. If you are reading this, my guess is you do!
Spicy pickled onions make everything taste amazing. They add that extra bit of love to every meal. I use them on sandwiches, salads, tacos, and serve them alongside hamburgers and wraps. I’ve even put them in cocktails! It’s one of those homemade specialties that impresses every time, so don’t get caught without a jar in your fridge (how embarrassing!).
Pickled onions are probably the easiest of pickles to make. If you haven’t pickled before, this is the place to get started. I tend to make them as I’m cutting onions for other recipes, one jar at a time.
We love all things spicy, so if you like something with a little kick, these are for you. They are sharp and sweet with a refreshing kick from the peppers. They taste a little like another favorite of mine, the spicy bread and butter pickle.
My old screw-top Mason jars, while effective, were becoming unpleasant to work with. The aluminum caps were difficult to pop off and the screw-on lids were starting to show a little rust. The Weck jars were the perfect solution. They are wide on top, making it easy to fish out whatever treat is inside, plus they look pretty in my refrigerator.
Use any old jar with a lid, or make these in a glass container or bowl with some plastic wrap on top. There’s no need to fuss because these are easy, remember? I don’t want a silly little jar keeping you from making these spicy pickled onions.
Use can use any type of onion too. Sweet Vidalia onions work very well, or you can use plain white onions. Red onions are my preference because they look so nice. The red turns to a bright pink after sitting in the brine for a day or two. These keep for about 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Enjoy!
Combine vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a small bowl. Whisk until sugar dissolves.
Place onion slices, cinnamon stick, cloves, pepper (or chili), garlic cloves and mustard seeds in glass jar or container. Pour vinegar mixture over the top and cover.
Refrigerate. They can be used after 1 hour. Store in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.
This spicy Szechuan roasted okra recipe is super easy and perfect for spice lovers. I used a bottled Szechuan sauce you can find in any Asian grocery store isle and a sprinkling of crushed red peppers. You can leave the okra whole or slice them in half if you want more seasoning-to-okra ratio. They roast up beautiful and tender; even the larger ones that seem tough when boiled. As for the “slime” okra is famous for, you won’t even notice it when you roast them up. They are sweet and delicate and have a delicious okra flavor.
I was an okra lover before, but now, roasted okra is my new favorite snack. Okra has been available in my grocery store for the past month now, and I’ve been bringing a bunch home every week, trying new flavors and combinations.
So far, I made soy & garlic glazed okra. A Parmesan and garlic okra recipe will be posted soon. I can’t figure out which one is my favorite, but this recipe for spicy Szechuan okra was my husband’. He is not an okra fan, but he ate these like candy, so I must be doing something right! They make a great side dish or unique appetizer everyone will talk about. Enjoy!
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F/190 degrees C
Wash and dry okra. Cut off stems just above the line where the stem attaches to the body of the okra. Slice in half or leave whole.
Place the okra on a baking sheet and drizzle with oil and Szechuan sauce. Toss with your hands to coat. Place into the oven and roast for 20 minutes, turning once. (If roasting whole okra, you may need another 5 minutes). Remove from the oven when okra is lightly browned and tender.
Toss with crushed red pepper flakes and salt (optional) to taste.
I have a long history with kimchi, and two distinct memories come to mind when I think of it. The first memory is from when I was around nine years old. That is when kimchi became a regular part of my life due to my new Vietnamese stepmother.She had a lot of Korean friends and we all loved to eat at a local Korean restaurant. I immediately loved the stuff. It was crunchy and spicy and I ate it even though it smelled funny.
My mom would also buy bottles of kimchi at the supermarket. I’m not sure if she already ate it, or if I begged her to buy some. But if my kid begged me to buy bottled cabbage, I’d buy it too! I was around thirteen when my second distinct kimchi memory occurred.
It was Halloween, and my best friend and I wanted to make a “scary sounds” cassette recording (that’s what we used back in the olden-days). We had a long walkway up to the house which was under lit, and completely surrounded by lush tropical plants packed so tight, not a blade of grass would grow. The palm fronds overhead formed a dark tunnel up to the doorway, which was decorated in the appropriate Halloween assortment of cobwebs, paper witches and fabric ghosts.
That night, we placed a boom box in the open window, blasting out into the street our homemade recording of strange and spooky sounds. First there was the sound of witch-y teenage giggling, followed by some moaning. Then rattling chains, more giggling and finally…the gross sound of me chomping open-mouthed on kimchi into the microphone.
Now that I’m all grown up, I make my own kimchi every few months at home. It’s delicious to snack on, and despite the amount of red pepper, it’s really good for your digestion. Kimchi is usually made with cabbage, but I decided to try some daikon and carrot sticks instead. Fermented for a few days in the closet, the sticks come out perfectly crunchy, delicious and fun to eat.
Place the daikon, carrot and salt in a strainer in the sink. Toss the vegetables in the salt to coat. Let sit for 3-4 hours. Wash thoroughly to remove the salt and allow to dry.
Place the daikon, carrot, scallions, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce and chili powder in a bowl. Mix thoroughly.
Transfer the mixture to a container with a tight lid, leaving a few inches of room at the top. You can let this ferment for 2-3 days in a closet or eat right away. If you allow it to ferment, turn the bottle upside-down a few times to distribute the moisture. Gas will build up as it ferments, so take care when opening.
This Caribbean goat stew goes a little outside of my comfort zone, but I’m glad I took the trip. After all, trying new things is really the point of all this cooking and blogging. With the onset of Fall, I’m deep in comfort food mode, making soups, stews and chowders, which remind me of living up North. Living in downtown Miami, we see a lot of Caribbean influences in the cuisine (and it still feels like summer). Just a few minutes from my home, you can get authentic Haitian goat stew, Cuban whole fried snapper and Jamaican callaloo.
The organic farm I purchase my meats and dairy from offers goat stew meat by the pound, so I decided to try some, stewed in rich Caribbean flavors like allspice, scotch bonnet peppers and Indian curry. The resulting stew is complex and delicious. The goat was very tender and flavorful. More flavorful than beef and free from any gamy flavor.
Curried goat is typically served with white rice (you need it with the heat of the peppers). I added lots of stew vegetables we are familiar with, like carrots, celery and potatoes. Because it was so spicy, I couldn’t share this dish with the baby, but between my husband and me, the leftovers disappeared fast. If you are able to find goat meat in your local grocery or a specialty market, I highly recommend it. It’s low in saturated fat and delicious. We will definitely be enjoying this dish again soon.
Note: I used boneless goat meat for this recipe, but it also works with chunks on the bone (probably better!). Use 4-5 pounds of bone-in meat.
Yield: 6 servings
Season the goat meat with salt and pepper and pat dry. Using a heavy skillet, brown the goat (in batches) in olive oil over medium heat. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add onions and ginger to the pan and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, carrots, celery, scotch bonnet pepper (if using), curry powder, bay leaf, allspice and cinnamon. Cook and stir another 5-10 minutes.
Add the tomato paste, stock and water (or wine) to the pan. Return the goat meat to the pan. Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook for 40 minutes on low heat.
After 40 minutes, add the potatoes and tomatoes. Cook for an additional 30 minutes. Taste for seasonings and heat. Add salt and freshly ground pepper as needed. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.