Food

Healthy & Tasty Chicken Burgers

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I LOVE a good crab cake. But I live in Austin, TX. This means that I basically have to be rolling in dough in order to eat decent shell fish (with the exception of Garbo’s, which is both incredibly delicious and mostly affordable).

In a never ending search for healthier food that doesn’t skimp on flavor or texture, I was given a recipe for Chicken burgers from an old buddy of mine. I immediately noticed that the recipe was styled similar to crab cakes, but used ground chicken instead of the luscious, but costly crustacean. You can easily grill this over charcoal or gas, but I do them in a pan on my stove to continue that cake style going. There are a few tricks in this recipe to keep everything from drying out as well. Top them with a little lemony greek yogurt sauce I make to substitute for the usual high-calorie remoulades or tartar sauces normally served with crab cakes, and dinner winds up being a very light, immensely flavorful delight.

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The original recipe for this is comes from All Recipes and is noted as “By Teri“. I halve this recipe, as it still makes four really good sized burgers that can easily stuff two or three very hungry people, and made some alterations, including omitting most of the mushrooms and tomatoes which makes everything too wet and reducing the Old Bay, which made it entirely too salty. My friends generally prefer to have these on a bun, like a burger, but, as noted before, I eat mine like a crab cake with just some lemon and sauce. With my faux-aioli and lack of bun, you can eat 2 of these without feeling any guilt in terms of calories. Another great thing about these is that you can prep the veggies  hours or even a day or two in advance, and throw everything together 30 minutes before you want to eat, making it a quick meal for mid-week.

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Chicken Burgers (makes 4 patties)

Ingredients

3 TBSP olive oil (or cooking spray depending on your preference)

1/2 yellow onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1/2 green bell pepper, diced

1/4 cup buttons mushrooms, chopped

1 lb ground chicken breast

1 egg

1/4 cup + 4 TBSP panko or flavored bread crumbs

2 tsp seasoning salt

1 tsp black pepper

Lightly spray a saute pan with cooking or oil spray over medium heat. Saute the onion, garlic, bell pepper, and carrots getting them slightly soft and a little golden, about 5-7 minutes. Set aside and allow all vegetables to cool completely.

Mix the 1/4 cup panko, egg, seasoning salt, and black pepper in with the ground chicken. Once the veggies are cooled and you’re ready to cook mix them into the chicken. Form into 4 patties. These are going to be pretty big. Grill them over medium high heat for 3 minutes per side or saute them in a pan with non-stick spray or olive oil over medium heat for about 4 minutes a side. I do mine on the stove top and pat each patty in a shallow dish with the remaining 4 TBSP of panko prior to dropping into the pan.

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Serve with a lemony aioli, my greek yogurt parsley & lemon sauce, blue cheese crumbles and Franks Buffalo Sauce, or on a bun with mustard and ketchup. It’s all good!

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Spicy Coconut Green Curry Chicken

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I have two problems in life. One is that I am never, not ever not in the mood for Asian food. The other is that I love too much. But this is about the first issue. When I want flavor, food I’m not going to feel too guilty about eating, and something fun in the kitchen I turn to Thailand, China, India. I feel bad for my friends who are never, not ever not hungry for pizza. Boo pizza. Tonight I need a curry.

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Spicy Coconut Green Curry Chicken

2 TBSP olive oil, divided

2 large chicken breasts

1 medium Onion chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 heaping tsp chili paste (or more depending on how spicy you’d like it)

1 TBSP ginger

3 TBSP Thai Kitchen Green Curry Paste

1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk. You can use the light version, but it may not thicken as much

1/4 cup chicken stock

Juice of 1 lemon

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat until just smoking. Drop the chicken breast into the pan, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, and brown, about 4 minutes a side. You’re not looking to cook them through, just brown them. Remove from the pan and set aside.

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Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and heat over medium high. Add the chopped onion, garlic, ginger, and chili paste and sauté until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add the curry paste and stir. Mix in the coconut milk, chicken stock, and lemon juice, stirring to combine. Turn heat to medium and let simmer until reduced, about 15 minutes or so; stir every 3 minutes or so.

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While that’s reducing, cut the chicken breast into 1 inch cubes. Add back to the simmering curry during the last 7-10 minutes of simmering until cooked through.

I served mine over white jasmine rice with steamed peas, and broccoli, though if I had cauliflower it would have been far more fitting and traditional that the broccoli. I also sprinkled a little cilantro on top, just because I needed a little added color; parsley would have been good, too. Awesome: Flavorful, spicy, creamy, rich, and bright.

Funny Bone Bites: Easy Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

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I don’t know if you heard, but Hostess has gone out of business. Anyone else see the irony in a “snack cake” company biting the dust when Americans are the fattest they’ve ever been?

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Any way, Funny Bones (chocolate ganache covered, peanut butter cream filled chocolate cakes) where just about my Dad’s favorite thing ever. And Drake’s Cakes, the maker of those and such fine things as Ring Dings (shout out to Aunt Ang!) and Coffee Cakes (watch that Seinfeld episode with Newman & Martin in the hospital and with Elaine’s endoscopy), was also owned by Hostess. Damnit. My dad, CHRISTopher, was born on Christmas Day, which means on top of gifts each year, my family also gets cake on December 25th. With Funny Bones officially dead, however, and with my folks traveling at different points this holiday season, I set out to find a chocolatey, peanut buttery substitute that was easy to bake in any kitchen or kitchenette stocked only with the bare necessities, and minimizing what would have to be purchased at the store.

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Funny Bones Cookie

  • 1 box of Devil’s Food cake mix
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp instant espresso powder (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

UPDATE: Not all boxed cake mixes are created equal! If your cookie dough is too moist, add 1/4 cup flour and 1 TBSP dutch processed cocoa for much more moldable batter. Your dough may not be crumbly like the photo and may be a little sticky, but keeping a ramekin of water near by to just lightly dip your fingertips in while rolling the dough around the filling will help tremendously. They still come out exactly the same and just as delicious. 

Filling:

  • 5 TBSP unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (choosey Moms choose Jif…because it has less salt than many others)
  • 1 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • You can substitute everything above under “Filling”, do a caramel version and just use Rolos

Chocolate Coating

  • 11/4 cups bittersweet Ghirardelli chips
  • 1 TBSP + 1 tsp vegetable shortening

*Can you use store bought icing? Yup. Can you just sprinkle each with powder sugar to simplify? Sure. Does ganache make heroes of average men? You betcha!

Preheat the oven to 350F. Mix the Filling ingredients together. Yes, we’re starting with the filling. Once you get the butter, sugar, and peanut butter blended well together, stick it in the fridge to firm up a bit. At that point you can move on to the cookie aspect of this recipe, which is incredibly easy. And it’s meant to be. ‘Cause if given the option of baking while on holiday or drinking a pomegranate martini in a hot tub, which do you think I’ll choose? (Hint: It’s not baking.)

Mix the cake, eggs, and oil together. It will look crumbly, but that’s okay. Its easily moldable.

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Take just about a tablespoon of the oily cake/cookie batter into your hand, roll into a ball and flatten in your palm. Take about a heaping teaspoon of the peanut butter mixture and drop into the center of the cookie. Gently fold the sides of the cookie dough up around the peanut butter. Don’t worry if the dough cracks on you; once the sides are folded up as best as you can, roll lightly into a ball, smoothing cracks with your fingers. If there is any noticeable seam, place that down on the ungreased cookie sheet. Each stuffed ball should be about a heaping tablespoon. You will also probably have some peanut butter mixture left over.

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Bake for 8-10 minutes. I baked mine for 10, but could have easily pulled them from the oven after 9 for a slightly chewier cookie. The cookies will have spread just a little, puffed in the center, and should just start to be cracking on the top. Let cool on the sheet for 5-10 minutes before moving to a cooling rack. While cooling, melt the chocolate chips and shortening in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave in 10-15 second intervals, stirring in-between each, until the ganache mixture is nice and runny. Drip about a teaspoon or so of the ganache over each cookie, smoothing with the back of a spoon. There will be more than enough chocolately topping to cover each. I then topped mine with chocolate sprinkles…because why not? Refrigerate for about 30 minutes or so to help the glossy ganache solidify. Makes 26 cookies.

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UPDATE: My mother & friends have both stated – without tasting one of these delectable cookies – that the chocolate sprinkles are over-kill. Now, my heart isn’t as shriveled and black as theirs, but to each his own. They are delicious with or without them. I know, because I’ve eaten entirely too many already.

UPDATE 2: The worst thing about these cookies (that I’ve discovered only just this morning) is that they’re even better the next day, AND they freeze perfectly. And my friends are already on me to “test” this recipe again today. Good thing I went to the gym already today.

Autumn Frying By: Back Yard Gastro Graze

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What, oh what, does one do with a turkey fryer once Thanksgiving is past $60 worth of oil?

Well, if you’re part of my group of friends, you set out to discover what can and can’t be fried.

The Frying Rig.

For safety’s sake, my friends took a direct page from Alton Brown’s book and setup their fryer outside, away from the house, spending about $5 to have the fry basket on a pulley, and wrapping the hose in tinfoil so that in the event of a spill, the hot oil won’t melt through the propane hose.

The weather was cool, the colors bright, every one felt good in the throws of Austin Autumn.

While some planning had to go into what we fried (wet batter that could drip and therefore be more likely to cause burnt bits that would blacken the oil), we started ambitiously with hot wings followed by Brussel sprouts, both fried at 350F degrees. The hot wings were tossed in regular buffalo sauce and Texas Pete Sweet & Fiery, a new favorite of mine. The Brussel sprouts took less than 3 minutes and were amazing both simply salted and sprinkled with Uchiko’s recipe.

Following our bounty of protein and veggie tables, we moved to a pallet cleansing batch of fried baguette crust, cut into strips, dipped into Nutella and served with banana slices. This was particularly satisfying.

Not everything was a success, however. We did attempt a batch of fried cheese curds, that came out more like puffs of hollow crispy shells. They also coated the basket in goo, and we had to break from frying to scrub everything and make sure the oil wasn’t going to burn do to particles.

I had mixed up a batch of green chile biscuit dough, rolled into balls, and stuffed each ball with a small cube of cheese and two drops of chile oil. These were tasty, but needed more seasoning than I mixed into the dough. A good start on something, though, and they were even better the next day, making me think they may need to be a breakfast treat!

Up next were the corn dogs and, while I only got one bite, they were easily my favorite of the afternoon. And it goes without saying that they disappeared the fastest, loved by adults, kids, and X-1.

X knows where the good stuff is…

But the day wasn’t just about getting together to eat unnecessary calories. We learned, we taught each other, we enjoyed the sunshine. The was quality time…

“Quality” time of the future.

We taught Nicco how to use the horn on her Batmobile and how to make deep “Tooooooot” train sounds with an empty bottle. We chatted and allowed the kids to exhaust us, using the adults and trees as jungle gyms.

And what would an afternoon be without dessert, a dessert that appreciates Autumn’s bounty of apples, of course?! The amazing Tania whipped up two different kinds of fried apple pie, one in pie crust, and one in a simple biscuit dough, as recommended by Paula Deen. We were somewhat surprised to find that Deen’s dough was far lighter and more substantial (and far less greasy) than the simple pie dough! Both were dipped in a fantastic caramel sauce from Austin’s own Foreign & Domestic.

It was an afternoon of ease, experimentation, humor, good company, beautiful weather, and joy. It was a second Thanksgiving Day, it was perfect for a Sunday in Autumn. One final note: we did eventually get the cheese curds to come out better…though not all together perfect. When Sarah wanted to get a few more, her husband, not standing too far from the curds said “Well, kick the dog, drop the baby, and get over here!” rather than leave the table himself, because they were disappearing all too fast. (Yes, of course he was kidding! But it’s a funny picture non-the-less.)

Guilt-Free Peach Crisp

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In my 1,978 attempt to will Austin to have an Autumn, I decided to make a crisp on this abnormally cool day. I’m bored with the expected and somewhat plain sweetness that comes with a peach or apple crisp, however, and really wanted to try to make a light version. With the entire 8 X 8 inch pan containing only 3 tablespoons of butter and 1.5 tablespoons of brown sugar for “bad” fat and sweetness, I had to ramp of my peach crisp’s flavor in terms of spices.

And the whole reason I made this a peach crisp was because I was too lazy to go out and get apples.

Guilt-Free Peach Crisp

3 large Peaches, about 5 cups of slices cut 1/4 inch thick (skin on)

1 TBSP flour, plus 2 tsps

1/2 cup oats

3 TBSP cold butter, cut roughly into 1/2 inch cubes

1 1/2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice, divided

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp white pepper (you can use black if need be)

1/4 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp salt, divided

3 TBSP red wine (I used a Pinot Noir)

Preheat your oven to 375.  Spray an 8″ x 8″ with nonstick cooking spray. Layout a single layer of peach slices; it’s fine if the edges over lap. Lightly sprinkle about a teaspoon of flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin spice over this layer. They shouldn’t be completely or evenly covered, just a scattered sprinkling will do. Add another 2 layers of peach slices. My peaches made roughly 3 layers, filling in holes here and there where needed. You don’t want to merely stack the slices on top of each other, but you should stagger them, making sure there are no gaps. On the top layer, sprinkle another teaspoon of flour and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.

In a bowl, combine the oats, butter, brown sugar, ginger, pepper, nutmeg, vanilla, and remaining flour and pumpkin pie spice. I found the best way to do this was with my fingers, mashing everything together until everything had formed small clumps. Sprinkle these clumps as evenly as possible over the top of the layered peach slices. Bake the crisp on the center rack for 25 minutes.

After 25 minutes in the oven, drizzle the 3 tablespoons of red wine over the top of the peaches. This will mingle with the peach juices, flour, and spices making a fantastic syrupy sauce by the time it’s through cooking. Continue baking an additional 15-20 minutes or until the peaches are tender and the juices are bubbling around the edges. Let the crisp cool on the counter for 10-15 minutes; this will thicken the sauce as well.

With only 372 calories and 27 grams of fat from the brown sugar and butter in the entire pan, this winds up being a very guilt-free dessert. This means, divided into 6 large servings, it’s only 62 calories and 4.5 grams of fat from added sugar and butter! And those are big servings. You can easily get away with doing 8 servings to save even more. Yes, you can make this with sugar substitutes if need be, but as I am not diabetic, I’d rather eat the small amount of sugar and save myself from the chemicals and sodium of artificial sweeteners.

In lieu of ice cream, I served my crisp with a dollop of Chiobani Vanilla Chocolate Chip Greek Yogurt. The flavor of the wine had become delicate, but a nice noticeable addition to the usual plainly sweet crisp, and you can see all the spices in the golden syrup that it creates. The best thing about this very flavorful dessert, is that you don’t feel the need to run on a treadmill or brush the excess sugar of your teeth right after eating it. Perfect for Fall, and a great ending to a dinner party – or even as an afternoon snack of comfort food!

Butternut Squash Fries

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These are a delicious alternative to sweet potato fries, saving the carbs from the potato and the fat by skipping the deep fryer. The squash contains a lot of liquid so I changed up the usual way of baking them in an attempt to dry them and crisp them up.

Butternut Squash Fries

1 Butternut Squash, peeled

2 TBSP Olive Oil

1.5 TBSP Corn Starch (optional)

1 TBSP Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

2-3 tsp salt, divided

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp parsley

Non-Stick cooking spray (I used Pam Olive Oil, calorie & fat free)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Peel the squash and scoop out the seeds. Cut the squash into fries, about 1/4 inch thick. I only used 1/2 of the squash, which was made more than enough fries for my friends and me. The rest I put in a ziploc baggy to save for later in the week.

Pour the Olive Oil into a bowl and toss the squash sticks, coating them evenly, but lightly. You can skip the next step with the corn starch and Parmesan if you want truly raw or paleo fries, but the coating is minimal calorically and it adds a lot of flavor and crunch. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour and the cheese. Toss the squash fries into the Parm mixture. Layout the sticks on a cookie sheet in a even layer and sprinkle 1 tsp of the salt and the pepper onto the fries. Spray with non-stick spray. Place the sheet into the upper most rack of you oven and bake for 20 minutes. Half way through that time, flip and sprinkle with another tsp of salt. The salting helps draw out moisture.

After the 20 minutes are up, flip for fries again, and move the tray to the bottom most rack of the oven. Bake for an additional 15 – 20 minutes or until nicely browned and crisp on the outside. Remove from cookie tray and plate. Sprinkle a little more salt and the parsley on top and serve. They’re great on their own and dipped into ketchup they’re identical to sweet potato fries.

Light Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bundt Cake

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I’m in Austin. It’s a million degrees out here, on this second to last day of September. But I’m continuing in my quest to will it to be Autumn. Visiting a friend for a party tonight, I decided to bring a pumpkin cake. I like pumpkin bread, but tonight I wanted something more, yet light. This recipe has no oil or butter in it and makes for an ultra moist, but not too sweet dessert that’s great for company, coffee, or a night playing Beatles Rock Band. Breaking out my bundt pan and whipping together a brown sugar cream cheese filling, I set to work making an easy, but flavorful Fall cake.

Pumpkin Spice Cake

1 box Spice Cake Mix

1 15oz can pumpkin

1.5 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice

1 tsp nutmeg

1 3.4oz butterscotch Instant Pudding Mix

2 eggs

2 TBSP Greek Yogurt

Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Filling

12 oz. room temperature Cream Cheese

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 egg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the cake ingredients. The cake batter will be sticky and thick, but fluffy, almost like icing. If it’s seems too thick, sticky, or dense to stir of manipulate add another big tablespoon of yogurt. In a separate bowl, whip together the cream cheese filling ingredients and place in the fridge for a few minutes.On a side note, I tend to not like things overly sweet and to me the pumpkin cake with cream cheese brown sugar mixture is more than enough. That being said, add 2 TBSP to 1/4 cup of granulated sugar to the cake mixture if you like it as sweet as usual cakes.

Grease or spray non-stick spray in a bundt cake pan and sprinkle with flour. Scoop in roughly 1/3 to 1/2 of the batter into the pan and spread evenly, making a little indenture in the center while doing it. The cream cheese will sit in this like a circular river of deliciousness. Next remove the cream cheese mixture from the fridge and dollop it in the indentation around the cake batter as evenly as possible. Next, top the cream cheese with the remaining cake batter, being careful to cover all the exposed cream cheese. Smooth the top as best you can.

Bake for 45-55 degrees or until a tooth pick comes out clean. Let cool at least 20 minutes before flipping out of the bundt pan. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar, slice, and serve. It’s moist, it’s delicious, it’s low fat, low sugar, and it screams Autumn comfort!

Easy Cheesy Gourmet Drop Biscuits

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The last couple of things I’ve posted here have been on the healthier side of delicious. Tonight’s contribution is also delicious, but also needless on the scale of “Healthy”. Exhausted by a million things going on that I’m going to generalize under the catch-all phrase “Life”, I decided on a summery dinner of grilled London Broil and Tomato salad filled with herbs, easy and super flavorful. But, alas, the meat was not thawed come dinner time. Or an hour after dinner time. And by the time we were actually able to start making dinner we were ravenous. Which is how I wonder up ruining our healthy protein and veggie packed dinner with buttery, cheesy biscuits.

Easy Cheesy Gourmet Drop Biscuits

2-3 large cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp black pepper

2 TBSP minced sun dried tomatoes

1 TBSP grated or shaved parmesan

1 TBSP grated mozzarella

2 cups flour

1 TBSP baking powder

1 cup milk

1 TBSP olive oil

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) cold butter, diced

1 1/2 tsp freshly chopped basil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and set a rack for the upper third of the oven. Mix everything together in a bowl until a stick mass forms.

When I make biscuits, I make serious biscuits, which is the over dramatic way of saying I make them way too large. They are the Big Gulp of biscuits. I usually make 6 large biscuits, but you can make 8 or even 10.  I wouldn’t go much smaller than that, though, and cooking time is affected by size. Bake 6 large biscuits for 20 minutes, 8 medium for 15 minutes, or 10 small for 10-12 minutes. The bottoms of the biscuits should be evenly golden brown and the tips of the various points on top crisp and golden as well.

This are fluffy, flavorful, moist, and a super tasty and easy addition to any meal, whether or not they have any health benefits. They are also excellent with a poached egg for breakfast!

Crispy Pork Tacos (Paleo)

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On Sundays I always look to something special for dinner, which comes from my upbringing. Huge family dinners filled with love and hours of cooking and food – food – So Much Food! Now, my numerous cousins are scattered amongst different states, different countries. I’m not sure what many of them do for their Sunday dinners now, but I know that we do still all love food, sharing, nurturing. Which brings me to what I call The Absentee Dinner. I make something simple, but a little more involved than the other days of the week, something with protein, something that’s going to be delicious and worth savoring. I make something special. I do it in honor of my family, my upbringing, and I invite dear friends over whenever possible, just so we can eat in each others’ company. And maybe watch a little Doctor Who.

With the reminiscence complete, let me say that while I like the depth and complexity of Asian flavors – sweet yet sour, spicy yet cool and crisp, you don’t have to follow this style. A great alternative to this, perfect for Game Day at your house is RECIPE RECOMMENDATION MISSING. Hmmm. I’ll tell you what: if you want that full recipe from me you’re going to have to wait until next week.

Crispy Pork Tacos, Asian Style

1-1.5 pounds Boneless Pork Loin Center Chops

2 TBSP minced garlic, divided

1 TBSP low sodium soy sauce

1/2 TBSP Hoisin sauce

1/2 tsp chile oil

2 tsp Sriracha

1 tsp black pepper (or red pepper flakes if you like it spicy)

Juice of one lemon

1TBSP water

1 TBSP white vinegar

1 TBSP brown sugar

2 tsp freshly grated ginger or 1 tsp ginger powder

1 Napa cabbage, leaves cleaned. Cut about 2 inches off the bottom of each leaf.

1/2 corn starch (if making “extra crispy”, see below)

2 TBSP olive or vegetable oil

Topping

Pre-shredded Broccoli slaw

1 cup bean sprouts

1/4 red wine vinegar

2 tsp salt

1. 5 tsp black pepper

3 tsp sugar

About an hour or two prior to cooking, marinate the pork. Slice the pork in large bite sized pieces, I like strips, and set aside. In a bowl, whisk together half of the garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, chile oil sriracha, pepper, lemon juice, water, vinegar, brown sugar, and ginger. Add the pork to the bowl and tossed making sure each piece is coated. Let marinate for 1-2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.

While marinating, make the crispy slaw topping. You can swap the slaw for kimchi. Toss the pre-shredded slaw mix, bean sprouts, salt, pepper, and sugar in a bowl, and set aside. This can sit some time and the flavors will just continue to marry while staying bright. Toss periodically in the time prior to serving.

Once the pork is marinated you have the option of sauteing or pan frying. On this night Chip and I made our Crispy Pork Tacos extra crispy, but you certainly simply dump the entire marinade mixture into a sauce pan heated with with the oil over medium high heat, cooking about 7-9 minutes. For extra crispy, however, remove the pork from the marinade and toss in the corn starch until evenly, but lightly coated. Discard the marinade, and heat the oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Pan fry the pork about 3-4 minutes per side or until golden brown. Remove from pan to a paper toweled plate to drain for a minute or two.

Taking one of the napa cabbage leaves, we set to work assembling our “Tacos”. We topped our pork with a sprinkling of slaw, a bit of the remaining minced garlic, a little chopped cilantro, sesame seeds and even some fresh diced mango. Serving with a wedge of lime, this would be perfect with a side of tropical quinoa or rice. Of course, we ate ours with squash, though, because I’m trying to will it to be Autumn here in Austin.

Healthy & Light(er) Spaghetti Squash Alfredo

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love Autumn. There’s not much Fall to be had in Austin, but each and every year I try to will this season to occur. The leaves don’t chain color, unless you count the grass dying, the weather barely cools, but I still make my house smell like synthetic pumpkin, I wear layers in earth tones, and I make squash. Lots and lots of squash.

In an attempt to make squash more than a side dish, I decided to make a Spaghetti Squash Alfredo. Creamy without being heavy, filling without being packed with carbs. To lighten the sauce, I skipped the usual heavy cream, cut back on the butter, and made a roux instead.

Spaghetti Squash Alfredo

1 Spaghetti Squash

3 TBSP butter

4 TBSP all purpose flour

1/4 cup chicken stock (or dry white wine)

1/2 cup milk (I used 1%, but any will do)

2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

Juice of 1 half lemon

1/2 TBSP dried parsley flakes or 1 TBSP freshly chopped parsley

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds. In a 4 sided cookie pan or large pyrex fill with enough water to fill about 1/4-1/2 inch up the sides. Place the squash (which at this point will look nothing like spaghetti) face down into the water. Roast the spaghetti squash for 35-45 minutes or until tender. I like my pasta al dente, so I took the squash out at 35 minutes.

The sauce comes together quickly, so make this no more than 10 minutes before the squash needs to come out.  Melt the butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour until you make a paste of even consistency.  Add the milk and chicken stock or wine, whisking to incorporate. Add the garlic and let simmer for about 3 minutes, whisking periodically. Sprinkle in the parm and the garlic powder, whisking to combine. If the alfredo sauce seems to thick, add chicken stock or white wine a TBSP at a time. As it sits and simmers it will thicken, so be sure to whisk periodically. It is best, however, to make the sauce a little thick because the squash does contain a lot of liquid naturally and that will moisten the sauce once tossed together. Just before serving, whisk in the lemon juice for brightness. You can also sprinkle the lemon juice directly over the squash prior to topping with sauce if preferred.

Getting back to the squash, once done roasting, remove from cookie sheet or pyrex and let cool about 5 minutes. Wrapping the back of the squash in a tea towel (the side with the skin on it) lightly separate the innards of the squash with a fork. I stuck the tines of the fork into the squash meat and gentle twisted, revealing the meat to be spaghetti-like.

Once the squash meat is cleaned out of the skin, place your “spaghetti” into a paper towel lined colander in the sink. The one draw back to this dish is that the squash contains a lot of moisture and you want to try to remove some of that prior to serving, just so the meal doesn’t get watery. Once the sauce is done or the squash has drained a bit in the colander for 5 or so minutes, which ever comes first, place the spaghetti squash into a large bowl and toss with the sauce, reserving about 1/4 of alfredo for topping if desired. Plate topping each serving with a little extra sauce and a small sprinkling of parsley. I also topped mine with a shredded slice of prosciutto, but sautéed chicken or shrimp would also be perfect as well to add a healthy and light punch of protein. I  really couldn’t detect much of a difference in flavor between the squash and regular spaghetti at all. It was a wonderfully flavorful Autumn dinner, without weighing us down, whether or not Fall was actually happening outside.