Spicy Thai Chicken Balls

Great for pot lucks, parties, and appetizers served with sweet and spicy Thai dipping sauce.

Unlike the majority of Thai chicken ball recipes in the States, authentic Thai chicken balls do not include breadcrumbs. Growing up, I have not seen Thais add breadcrumbs to their chicken balls. If you prefer using breadcrumbs, please do so. It’s a wonderful way to make an East meets West recipe. For this recipe, I use rice flour with fresh herbs and spices. I made these into chicken sliders this past summer for a friend’s burger throw down. At the end of the night, I was pleasantly surprised to see all the sliders disappear.

Why refrigerate the chicken ball mixture? For the salt to have time to tenderize the chicken. Refrigeration will also allow time for herbs and spices to penetrate.

Grill or bake? Since it’s the middle of winter and single digit outside, using the outdoor grill will be challenging. If you are fortunate enough to have an indoor grill, cook each side for about 6-7 minutes. If you are in a similar boat as I am, fear not and throw them in the oven. Bake until fully cooked and finish under broiler on high heat.

Not just a chicken ball mixture. You can turn these into patties for burgers. Chicken kabobs? Why not? They are delicious in a pita with lettuce, shredded carrots and cucumbers. The chicken balls are also heavenly in noodle soups. Another easy meal = lettuce wrap.

I hope I’ve made you hungry enough to try this recipe. Get cooking!

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chickenballs-2

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Thai dipping sauce

A basic Thai dipping sauce for fried egg rolls, lettuce wraps with vermecilli noodles, tod mun (fried fish cake), fried chicken wings, and Thai golden triangles (Thai samosa made with potatoes and curry spices).

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Thai dipping sauce

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Swedish Meatball Sandwich

Don’t know what it is about these addictive, little pieces of heaven, but like most folks, you can’t stop at eating just one. The texture is like meatloaf and the spices make it so flavorful. Then add silky gravy on top and throw in the towel. So good it makes any grown man’s knees buckle.

The Swedish meatball recipe is perfect for potluck or serve as appetizers. I can easily eat a dozen, but it’s also delicious over egg noodles or stuffed in between bread. Any leftovers can be frozen. However, I’m not shy to admit that this is never a problem at my home.

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Portobello Pizza with Spicy Italian Sausage, Roasted Garlic and Tomatoes

Tis the season for muffin tops, tight pants and our on-going battle of the bulge. The last three months of the year make me cringe. My love affair with food is always one sided with me in the negative. I crave pizza! What healthy concoction can I whip up that will satisfy the taste buds as well as keep our line of latitude in check? It will need to be palatable enough to entertain my vegetarian foodies (minus the meat of course). And since it’s the holidays, it’s got to be a sufficient amount to feed a small army of friends. Instead of dough, use portobello mushroom as the base. No tomato sauce, no problem. Substitute sauce for roasted garlic and tomatoes. The taste of canned tomato sauce pales in comparison to the aroma and flavors of fresh roasted garlic and tomatoes. What’s left to complete the pizza are more toppings (meat or vegetables), a sprinkle of cheese along with basil and parsley.

To remove or not remove portobello gills? If the recipe is for stuffed mushrooms, gills are removed to make ample room for stuffing. More often, gills are removed because the liquid emitted, when cooked, will stain the other ingredients. For instance, lovely white goat cheese will look like it’s been dragged through mud. Others say the gills taste a little bitter, but I actually like gills. The presence of gills can make a nice reservoir for whatever flavorful baste you’re using.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

My first dessert post! Sooner or later I knew I’d have to share one of my favorite sweet treats and why not start with chocolate chips? I don’t know many kids or adults that would pass up a chocolate chip cookie. The tantalizing aroma of vanilla and chocolate swirling in the air when the cookies are being baked can easily take one’s breath away.

If you’ve never made home-made chocolate chips, you may be wondering what ingredients are in these cookies other than chocolate chips. I believe the traditional recipe combines flour, baking powder, eggs, fat (butter, oil or margarine), brown sugar, white sugar with semi-sweet chocolate chips. Nowadays, the variation of recipes include different types of chocolate (chips, bars, white chocolate, or cocoa powder), flour (whole wheat, almond flour), and additional ingredients such as nuts, dried fruit, and/or oatmeal.

chocolate. Just about any kind of baking chocolate can be used whether it be chocolate chips or chocolate bars. Some of my favorite brands are Valrhona Manjari (French), Scharffen Berger (made in San Francisco), Callebaut, and Ghirardelli (made in San Francisco). I use Ghirardelli the most because it’s the least expensive out of the bunch. For special occasions like birthdays, I like to kick it up a notch by using the high-end chocolates.

sugar. I like to use a combination of granulated sugar (white sugar) and palm sugar or coconut palm sugar. Palm sugar is a coarse brown sugar tapped from date palms and palmyra palms. It’s less sweet than granulated sugar and a rich caramel taste with butterscotch undertones.

Palm sugar is sold at Asian or Indian markets, natural food markets, or online. Just make sure it is “pure” palm or coconut sugar and not blended with other sugars. It’s often sold in solid blocks or liquid. It may be light-colored or dark, soft and gooey, or hard. As a product of the cottage industry, these characteristics vary greatly from batch to batch, but it should easily crumble when squeezed.

storage. Cookie dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two months if properly stored in an airtight container or plastic bag. In the freezer, the dough should be good for up to a year. I prefer to bake cookies after the dough has ample time to rest in the refrigerator (about 24-48 hours). I find that the flavors become richer and the sugars more caramel and nutty. Another advantage of leaving dough in the frig, it becomes easier to handle and less sticky.

Fresh baked cookies are like meat, they need a little time to rest properly before you devour them :)

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most delicious chocolate chips cookies

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Takoyaki (Japanese Octopus Balls)

Takoyaki

The first time I tried takoyaki was from a street food stall in Japan several years ago. I remember while approaching the food vendor, my initial thoughts were, other than its smaller size, these look like ebleskiver (small, round Danish pancakes about 2 inches in diameter). As for appearances, that’s where the similarities end. Instead of tasting a sweet, fluffy, pancake texture, takoyaki is less dense, crispier on the outside, and has a soft chewy center.

Known mainly as octopus balls outside of Japan, takoyaki is a savory, grilled, Japanese dumpling. “Tako” means octopus, and “yaki” is a term translating to food that’s grilled, broiled or fried. This tasty snack started as street food in the early 1930’s in Osaka, located in the Kansai region of Japan. Its popularity has expanded into most restaurants, food courts, grocery markets, and 24-hour stores. The shell of a takoyaki mainly consists of eggs, flour, and dashi broth. The inside traditionally contains a small piece of octopus sprinkled with scallions, beni shoga (red pickled ginger), tenkasu (tempura scraps), and sakura ebi (ground dried shrimp).

In Japan, it’s a communal experience. If people aren’t buying these delectables, they’re cooking them at home. Takoyaki at home involves friends and family gathered around a table cooking and eating together. Everyone pitches in from making the batter to adding the ingredients for the fillings. There are frozen takoyaki available in Asian markets, but it’s always best eaten fresh and hot – and more fun with friends and family.

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Takoyaki

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