delicious monday: bird’s eye papaya salad

mom, i did it! i finally mastered the art of making papaya salad at home. don’t get me wrong; shredding the papaya is very time consuming. i use a julienne peeler for the job. when you get a craving, you get a craving!

i grew up eating a variety of papaya salad; my mom had her version and her friends had theirs. i remember one woman made papaya salad with so many chilis that it was pink. i tried a bite as a foolish elementary schooler and just about died— it was so spicy.

today’s recipe is one that i make at home, but you can embellish it as needed. green papaya can be found at asian grocery stores; pick one that has unbruised skin and feels firm. green beans are popular additions; i’ve even seen salads with dried, salty shrimp on top. you can buy bird’s eye chili (the official name for thai chili) at asian stores, too, either fresh or frozen. we’re lucky because my mom brings a bag from her garden every time she visits texas!

MATERIALS

  • 2 cups of shredded green papaya
  • 1/2 cup of shredded carrots
  • 1 handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • fish sauce
  • brown sugar
  • fresh lime juice
  • 1 clove of garlic, skin removed
  • 1 thai chili or other hot chili pepper
  • mortar bowl and pestle

MODIFICATIONS

  • substitute the carrots with a handful of green beans (ends cleaned and halved).
  • sprinkle crushed unsalted peanuts on top.
  • serve on a bed of green leaf lettuce or rice vermicelli noodles.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. smash the garlic and thai chili together in the bowl. add the papaya and carrots and gently beat on the pieces, turning everything occasionally with a spatula.
  2. add a tablespoon of brown sugar and fish sauce and a teaspoon of lime juice. mix into the salad. taste a small bite— if it’s not seasoned, add more fish sauce. if it’s too spicy, add more brown sugar.
  3. gently fold in the tomatoes. transfer to a large bowl to share or small bowls as an appetizer.

delicious monday: chicken caesar salad

caesar salad is one of my favorite salads to order at a restaurant in addition to caprese or something with walnuts and goat cheese. we often make salads for lunch but can you believe we’ve never made caesar salad at home? it’s incredibly easy, almost as simple as breakfast cereal (pour cereal into bowl, generously top with cold milk).

many grocery stores offer pre-cooked chicken but michael likes buying boneless chicken thighs, seasoning them with salt and pepper, and throwing them on the grill. the chicken ends up with beautiful grill marks and a smoky, summery scent. plus you can freeze any extra chicken for future salads.

MATERIALS

  • hearts of romaine, cleaned and chopped into small pieces
  • cherry tomatoes
  • croutons (homemade or store-bought)
  • grilled chicken
  • shaved parmesan
  • caesar dressing

MODIFICATIONS

  • restaurants usually mix the dressing into the salad prior to serving. you can follow their lead or pour the dressing yourself (my preferred method).

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. in a salad bowl, layer the lettuce with tomatoes and pieces of chicken. add a handful of croutons and shaved parmesan.
  2. serve with caesar dressing.

delicious monday: asian cold noodle bowl

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when michael and i were dating, he said i had to try this vietnamese noodle dish called bun. he described it as noodles with pork, herbs, and spring rolls. to his surprise, i told him the dish wasn’t strictly vietnamese; my mom makes the same kind of dish and she’s from laos. basically a cold noodle bowl is a deconstructed spring roll without the wrapper, and the peanut sauce is the best part.

last year we began making noodle bowls at home. you can use any kind of grilled meat you like (or even tofu). my mom creates egg rolls by hand, but we buy frozen egg rolls from the asian supermarket because we go through her stash quickly. the frozen ones are tasty, too— just make sure the oil isn’t super hot when you fry them.

have you ever eaten a cold noodle bowl? what do you put in yours?

MATERIALS

  • vietnamese rice noodles (also called bun or rice vermicelli)
  • shredded lettuce, cucumber, and carrot
  • small bunches of cilantro, mint, and basil, chopped
  • bean sprouts
  • thai chili peppers
  • fish sauce
  • brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
  • grilled meat (we used pork cutlets)
  • peanut sauce (see recipe for instructions)

MODIFICATIONS

  • we always make noodle bowls with egg rolls on top!
  • i make peanut sauce on the stove and let it cool; the recipe doesn’t require heat. 

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. view the full recipe here.

delicious monday: shrimp chowder with corn

texas cannot make up its mind. i’ve spend the last two weeks covering my plants because it’s below freezing at night and then uncovering them later because it’s warm and pleasant during the day. this afternoon i covered all the plants again! sophie was curious but wary; she stayed indoors (pugs don’t got time for that).

when the weather gets cold, michael and i like hearty, hot soups for lunch. we made chowder last week from one of our real simple cookbooks. the only difference between our chowder and the magazine’s chowder is the bacon— you can never go wrong with bacon. enjoy!

MATERIALS

  • 2 leeks, white parts chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped
  • 3-4 large gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 18-24 large frozen shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 cups of frozen sweet corn
  • 3 cups of milk
  • 1 small bottle of clam juice
  • chopped parsley to garnish
  • all-purpose flour
  • butter
  • kosher salt and pepper for seasoning

MODIFICATIONS

  • sprinkle the chowder with chopped crispy bacon.
  • use raw shrimp instead of cooked ones. when the shrimp are pink and opaque, they’re done!

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. view the full recipe here.

delicious monday: kow piek (chicken and rice soup)

today’s recipe is very special to me— it’s the quintessential soup of my childhood. whenever we watch top chef, the contestants are challenged (usually toward the finale) to cook a dish that evokes a warm memory. when i think of my parents’ kitchen, i see a little girl in a bowl haircut sitting in a wooden chair eating kow piek.

kow piek literally translates to “wet rice.” it’s a traditional chicken and rice soup found in many southeast asian countries. the base of the soup resembles chicken pho; in lieu of noodles, the chef adds steamed rice to the hot broth.

MATERIALS

  • 8 cups of chicken stock or broth
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of minced ginger
  • 1 1/2 pounds of chicken thighs (remove bones) or cutlets
  • 1 cup of chopped scallions and cilantro
  • fried garlic (available at asian grocery stores)
  • 4 cups of steamed white rice, chilled
  • soy sauce
  • sesame oil
  • kosher salt and pepper for seasoning

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. warm a large pot with your chicken stock or broth (you can also use a crock pot).
  2. preheat a skillet to medium. add a dash of sesame oil and sauté the onion, garlic, and ginger until fragrant and lightly browned. add the chicken thighs or cutlets and cook until they are no longer pink. dump the contents of the skillet into the pot.
  3. cook the soup on low with a lid to tenderize the chicken. while the soup simmers, prepare the rice. check on the soup after a couple of hours and shred the meat into pieces with a fork.
  4. allow the rice to cool to room temperature. using a ladle, slowly add a cup of rice at a time into the soup. the rice grains will separate as they touch the liquid. season the soup with soy sauce (or salt) and black pepper. replace the lid until you’re ready to eat.
  5. serve the soup in bowls with fresh scallions and cilantro and a pinch of fried garlic. if you want more spice, citrus, or salt, take my mom’s advice: “add whatever you like.”

delicious monday: italian wedding soup

if you’re making italian wedding soup, you must default to the barefoot contessa— ina garten’s italian recipes are always on point. we made a big batch of soup last week as the temperatures dipped into the 30’s, and we ate it for lunch leading up to thanksgiving. the soup was perfect!

we made a few modifications to ina’s recipe. michael didn’t use any milk in the meatball mixture and we chose a large bag of baby kale over spinach. we also used italian sausage instead of chicken sausage and mixed in leftover orzo and orecchiette from the pantry.

michael rolled so many meatballs that we froze a container of them. i might break them out as a holiday appetizer later this month, cute lil’ toothpicks and all!


MATERIALS

  • 3/4 pound of ground chicken
  • 1/2 pound of italian sausage
  • 2/3 cup bread crumbs
  • minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese
  • one beaten egg
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup of diced or matchstick carrots
  • 10 cups of chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup of fresh dill, minced
  • kosher salt and pepper for seasoning

MODIFICATIONS

  • use kale instead of spinach.
  • use orzo instead of traditional pasta.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. view the full recipe here.

delicious monday: baked ziti with kale and mozzarella

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my baked ziti recipe is a mix of my mom’s spaghetti and my mother-in-law’s baked rigatoni. we haven’t made pasta in awhile. on friday after school i arrived home and settled on ziti.

if you don’t like hamburger, you can substitute italian sausage, ground turkey, or chopped eggplant. baked ziti is like the kid that plays well with everyone. it’s a flexible dish, and it’s elegant enough for guests. eat up!

MATERIALS

  • 1 pound of lean ground beef
  • 1 bag of baby kale leaves, stems removed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
  • 1 jar of marinara sauce
  • 6-8 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 container of fresh bocconcini (mozzarella balls)
  • 1 cup of shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 box of ziti noodles (feeds 4)
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt and pepper for seasoning

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. preheat a skillet to medium. add olive oil to the pan and cook the hamburger meat, breaking it into small pieces. drain any access liquid and sauté the onions and garlic until softened and fragrant. stir in the marinara sauce and season to taste. lower the heat.
  2. bring a pot of lightly salted water to boil. add the pasta and cook for 7-10 minutes. drain the noodles well and mix them into the meat sauce. preheat the oven to 375F.
  3. add the kale leaves a handful at a time, allowing them to wilt before getting a new handful. repeat with the basil. drain the bocconcini and put them in the pan. mix well.
  4. using a large spoon, scoop the pasta mixture into porcelain ramekins. sprinkle shredded cheese on top of each dish. bake them for 10-15 minutes until the cheese is browned.
  5. serve the ziti with a fresh green salad like my mother-in-law or with warm bread like my mom.

delicious monday: tex-mex bowl

in texas, comfort food doesn’t always refer to chicken noodle soup or pot roast. comfort food can be something spicy, and fortunately, we like it spicy! one of our favorite meals is a warm bowl of pork and rice garnished generously with pico de gallo. occasionally michael substitutes black beans and corn instead of the rice. either way, the meal quickly appeases a hungry stomach.

MATERIALS

  • 4-6 pound boston rump roast
  • olive oil
  • steamed white or brown rice
  • avocado, pitted and sliced
  • fresh pico de gallo
  • kosher salt and pepper for seasoning

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. preheat a skillet to medium-high and a crock pot to medium. season the roast with salt and pepper. add olive oil to the pan and sear the meat on all sides until brown.
  2. place the roast inside the crock pot with two cups of water. cover and cook for 3-4 hours until meat falls apart with a fork. drain the liquid and season again if needed. keep warm.
  3. thirty minutes before the pork is done, steam rice in a rice cooker or over the stove. rinse the rise thoroughly before adding water. add two cups of water per one cup of rice to the pot. bring to a boil and then lower the heat. fluff with a fork after 15-20 minutes. if you’re using brown rice, follow the instructions on the package; brown rice usually takes longer to cook.
  4. spoon the rice into bowls. serve the pork on top and garnish with avocado slices and pico de gallo.

delicious monday: seafood strata

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a few years ago, i cooked strata for the first time because we wanted something easy yet classy to serve at a family brunch. michael and i are perfectly happy with scrambled eggs and cornflakes. when we have guests, strata seems a bit more elevated. plus, it’s fun to assemble. we like it so much that sometimes i make strata and don’t invite anyone over.

our favorite recipe is from an older issue of better homes and gardens. i snipped the recipe and glued it in our book. my version never looks as brown or crispy as the magazine strata, but it tastes pretty darn good!

MATERIALS

  • 6 leeks, halved and cut into moons (white parts only)
  • 8 tortillas
  • 1/2 pound of cooked shrimp (peeled and deveined)
  • 1 cup of cooked lump crab meat
  • 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 cups of milk
  • flour
  • butter
  • kosher salt and pepper for seasoning

MODIFICATIONS

  • substitute corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas.
  • substitute italian sausage instead of seafood and add chopped bell pepper.
  • cut extra tortillas into strips. arrange on top to resemble a pie crust (it’s my thing).

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. view the full recipe here.

delicious monday: albondigas

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today’s recipe is truly an oldie but goodie. i tore it out of woman’s day magazine six or seven years ago and taped it inside a green scrapbook of recipes for michael’s birthday. we still have the little book, and it still has the recipe.

if you like meatballs, you’ll love albondigas. they’re southwestern style meatballs made with pork and seasoned with cumin, oregano, and other herbs. we eat them with rice or cous cous; albondigas are a simple and spicy weeknight meal. enjoy!

MATERIALS

  • 2 cups of cooked rice or cous cous
  • 1 package of ground pork
  • 1 zucchini, grated into stripes
  • 1 handful of smashed tortilla chips
  • 2 scallions, white and light green parts sliced
  • fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 can of enchilada sauce (mild or medium)
  • 1 egg
  • minced garlic
  • cumin and oregano
  • kosher salt and pepper for seasoning

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. view the full recipe here.

delicious monday: ground chicken and mushroom salad

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my mom makes a mean thai chicken salad full of ginger, lemongrass, and chili peppers. this salad isn’t mean— it’s nice! it’s the tame version of our family favorite. when my parents visit next month, i’ll get my mom to share her spicy recipe.

we usually eat the salad with romaine lettuce cups or bibb lettuce leaves, but plain old baby spinach works just as fine. add some crushed cashews and a dash of japanese pepper on top for a little heat.

MATERIALS

  • 1 pound of ground chicken
  • 1 carton of baby bella mushrooms, washed and chopped
  • 1 small sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of minced ginger
  • 1/4 cup of soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of mirin
  • 2 tablespoon of sesame oil
  • 1 handful of fresh cilantro, chopped for garnish


INSTRUCTIONS

  1. preheat a skillet to medium. add one tablespoon of sesame oil and sauté the garlic, ginger, and onions until softened. add the chicken. stir the chicken and break it into little pieces.
  2. when the chicken has browned, drain any access liquid. return the pan to heat and add the mushrooms. cook until the mushrooms are tender. set the pan aside and turn off the stove.
  3. allow the chicken and mushroom mixture to cool slightly. add the soy sauce, brown sugar, mirin, and remaining sesame oil to a small bowl and whisk together. pour the dressing on top of the chicken and mushrooms.
  4. stir the mixture and season with salt and pepper if needed. serve the salad with your choice of greens.

delicious monday: tuna ceviche

michael and i first ate ceviche years ago at an acclaimed restaurant in downtown philadelphia. i assumed ceviche was a kind of sushi. fish is the main ingredient, but it’s definitely not japanese! ceviche refers to fish “cooked” in citrus juice.

this summer we felt brave and made ceviche at home with rick bayless’ recipe. chefs recommend using sushi-grade fish; our grocery store sells small tuna steaks that aren’t too expensive. after you find the tuna, the rest is easy.

MATERIALS

  • 1 pound of sushi-grade tuna
  • 1 red onion, halved and sliced
  • 8-10 limes for fresh lime juice
  • 1 hatch chili pepper, seeded and minced
  • cilantro
  • kosher salt and pepper for seasoning
  • 1 ripe avocado, cubed
  • sweet potato tortilla chips

MODIFICATIONS

  • every august, grocers in san antonio sell green hatch chili peppers. we bought some for the ceviche. you can substitute them with any pepper.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. view the full recipe here.

delicious monday: italian pulled pork

have you ever played six degrees of kevin bacon? i feel like this recipe resembles the game. we found the recipe in the week. the magazine found it in a book, the great meat cookbook. now it’s on the blog.

pulled pork is as texan as leather boots, spurs, and cowboy hats. we eat pulled pork in buns, spicy tacos, and taquitos. this recipe inspired us to switch continents and go european— pulled pork is even better with an italian sauce on top.

MATERIALS

  • 4-6 pound boston rump roast
  • olive oil
  • 1 small can of anchovies fillets in oil
  • 1 tablespoon of crushed garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup pitted green olives
  • rosemary and sage
  • 1 lemon for zest and juice
  • kosher salt and pepper for seasoning

MODIFICATIONS

  • the original recipe instructs you to roast the pork in the oven, but there are various ways of making pulled pork. we usually use a crock pot or dutch oven.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. preheat a skillet to medium-high and a crock pot to medium. season the roast with salt and pepper. add olive oil to the pan and sear the meat on all sides until brown.
  2. place the roast inside the crock pot with two cups of water. cover and cook for 3-4 hours until meat falls apart with a fork. drain the liquid and season again if needed. keep warm.
  3. use a small food processor and blend the anchovies, garlic, parsley, and olives. add a pinch of chopped rosemary and sage and zest and juice from the lemon. slowly add oil until the mixture resembles pesto. season with salt and pepper.
  4. serve the sauce on top of the pulled pork. for our sides, we chose bulgar and lima beans with feta.
  5. play the kevin bacon game for fun. everything’s yummier with bacon!

delicious monday: pesto pizza

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do you remember having “pizza day” at school? we had pizza day every friday in the cafeteria served with crinkle-cut fries and green beans. i loved pizza day. i always picked cheese pizza, and the lunch ladies cut the pieces in perfect rectangles.

in high school i discovered that pizzas existed without tomato sauce, and i devoured them, too. greek and margherita pizzas are still two of my favorites along with pesto pizza. the following recipe is from cooking light with a few modifications.

MATERIALS

  • 1 basket of baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • shredded mozzarella cheese
  • whole wheat pizza dough
  • fresh pesto (or canned)
  • minced garlic
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt and pepper for seasoning

MODIFICATIONS

  • we used plain naan as the base for the pizza.
  • add cooked chicken, cut into bite-size pieces.
  • use fresh mushrooms (the recipe calls for dried ones).

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. view the full recipe from cooking light.

delicious monday: roasted vegetable salad

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i’ve mentioned in the past that most of our weekday lunches are salads. today’s roasted veggie salad is one of michael’s favorites.

in the middle of taking pictures i worried that i put too much mozzarella on it. then i remembered that too much mozz is a non-existent concept. this recipe is from the book 100 best fresh salads.

MATERIALS

  • one sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
  • one large red bell pepper
  • one eggplant
  • italian salami
  • fresh mozzarella
  • mixed greens
  • kosher salt and pepper for seasoning

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. preheat the oven to 375F. arrange the sweet potato pieces on a greased baking pan. season with salt and pepper.
  2. bake the potatoes for 15-20 minutes. add the eggplant, bell peppers, and other vegetables if desired. bake until all veggies are tender.
  3. allow the vegetables to cool. serve them on top of mixed greens with sliced salami, fresh mozzarella, and balsamic dressing.