If you’re spring breaking right now, lucky you! Hope you’re having fun. I am home this week with Mr. Picky who is back in school, while hubs and my daughter are visiting colleges. Exciting stuff!
For this edition of Five Friday Favorites, I wanted to highlight some great things I have been using in my classes (and at home) the last month or so. Love it all!
You are probably familiar with the usual hot sauces that you can find on the tables of restaurants and diners- Tabasco, Cholula, Tapatio and the like. But there is also one not so common hot sauce that is usually only offered in Asian or specialty restaurants- Sriracha! Sriracha hot sauce is a chili sauce that is full of flavor and heat. Sriracha’s taste comes from five main ingredients: ground up red chile peppers, vinegar, garlic, salt, and sugar. I personally love the tanginess! It is a little milder than tabasco sauce. I used it in my classes in January in the Asian turkey meatballs (that I recently posted) to give them a little kick, plus we made a Sriracha aioli as a sauce to go with the meatballs (which we then put into lettuce leaves and served with slaw – like an amazing Asian taco!) I used the leftover Sriracha aioli (which is just Sriracha mixed with Vegenaise and a pinch of salt) from my classes each week and was putting it on everything from veggie burgers to eggs to quinoa.
I love complex flavor that this sauce has and I think it is a really fun addition to things like veggies, grain bowls or sauces. There are 2 different brands that I tested out over the month- Thai Kitchen, which has a great flavor, no scary ingredients and comes in a glass bottle– but, alas it is not organic. There is an organic sriracha on the market, made by Organicville, which is completely clean, but it comes in a plastic bottle (and I like the flavor of Thai Kitchen better.) I won’t buy the most popular sriracha, Huy Fong, because it is full of preservatives. Sorry! Thai Kitchen is available at Whole Foods in the Asian food aisle and it’s available online through Vitacost. Organicville is available on Thrive Market and locally at Grow in my neighborhood. Here are some recipes around the web that use the yummy sauce!!
I love this round-up at Bon Appetit Magazine for 25 new ways to use sriracha — so many great ideas!
Sriracha Roasted Brussels Sprouts from Sprouted Kitchen
Sriracha Popcorn from Bake Your Day
Sriracha Buttered Shrimp from Bon Apetit
Making the transition from processed foods to eating clean usually means giving up salty, crunchy snacks like chips and crackers. Chips, for example, are heavily processed, often fried in pro-inflammatory oils and loaded with preservatives, chemicals and salt. Now tortilla chips and guacamole is one of my favorite snacks, so I am not saying I never indulge. But what about people who are following a grain-free diet? And is there even a “higher quality chip?” Luckily, a lot of companies are getting the memo that even when we do want to splurge a bit, we still want to be able to avoid inflammatory oils and additives.
There are several options on the market now for snack foods that aren’t quite as offensive, but I have especially been loving plantain chips lately– which are just whole plantains, sliced and baked (usually) with some oil and sea salt. Plantains are related to bananas. They are a starchy, low in sugar variety that are eaten cooked, not raw. I was originally introduced to them my my Puerto Rican mother-in-law who fries very ripe plantains and serves them alongside rice and beans. I first saw plantain chips at Trader Joe’s. They were roasted with sunflower oil and sea salt. While sunflower oil is not my fave, curiosity got the best of me and I decided to give these a try. They were absolutely delicious and my family went nuts for them. I was then determined to find a better source that used a higher quality oil, and low and behold Thrive Market carries a brand called Inka Chips that are made with palm oil, which is a high quality saturated veg oil. The only drawback here is that Inka Chips are not organic. They do have another brand that is organic, Platayuc, these are also made with sunflower oil so I choose to stick with the Inka chips. Plus, Inka Chips are much thicker than the organic ones and do not break as easily.
I used these plantain chips all of March as part of a Cuban-themed menu in my cooking classes. The chips were crumbled and topped a grilled pineapple, avocado and red onion salad! I’ll post that recipe soon. Everyone went nuts for this salad and the plantain chips really added something special. Aside from the salad, I have been using these in place of tortilla chips to dip in guacamole or hummus. Plus, these are paleo-friendly which is great for those of you following that diet but missing out on snacking!
Indoor Cast Iron Grill Pan
I am spoiled with the weather here in Southern California, and there aren’t too many days out of the year where it is not practical to use an outdoor grill. However, I know that my readers hail from all over and there are many of you that are stuck without a grill for months on end because of harsh weather. Indoor grill pans are the perfect alternative to be able to grill year round. As I mentioned above, I taught a grilled pineapple salad in my cooking classes last month and I was always excited when the host’s kitchen included a grill pan. We were only grilling a couple slabs of pineapple so we could really make quick work of doing it a couple of minutes on the stovetop, rather than have to preheat the entire grill just to grill something small for a minute or two. And I’m sure many of you run into the same issue when cooking for 1 or 2, or even if you want to make a quick chicken breast, grill some shrimp, or even grill some veggies for a quick lunch. Heating up the grill takes time and can waste gas/propane.
Cast iron is the way to go for an indoor grill pan, and Staub makes a great one that comes in both a square with a single handle or round with a double handle. The cast iron is perfect for indoor grilling as it doesn’t have any of the scary chemicals that come with a nonstick pan, it distributes heat evenly and the surface gives you perfect browning. All of Staub’s cast iron pans are preseasoned and finished to be rust and crack resistance and do not require any further seasoning. Plus, they are easy to clean, just don’t allow them to air dry which can make them rust. Wash with warm water and towel dry or put back on the stove to dry over medium heat.
Both styles of pan are available at kitchen stores such as Williams Sonoma and Sur La Table, and I have also provided Amazon links for you: 10″ square, 12″ square, and 12″ round (this one comes with a lid for steaming, but is also available without, just not for a good price on Amazon). You may want to shop around a bit because price can vary by color!
Launch Lunchbox from PlanetBox
It was quite a happy day for my son when he found out he was getting upgraded to the “larger portions” “Launch” lunchbox from PlanetBox. This model is 30% larger than the Rover model, which has several small compartments that always lent a hand to fun and creative lunches. However, he’s 12 now and eating larger portions. In the picture above, which was his lunch from the other day, you can see I was able to fit 3 pretty big empanadas, which would not have fit in theRover model. There is a small tin for his dipping sauce which is super convenient and then 2 other medium sized compartments which hold a substantial amount of fruit, veggies or whole grains. I also love that it comes with a glass container that will fit inside the large compartment, in case I am giving him something that is extra saucy or leaky. I have always loved the carry bag which has two outside pockets which I use for tucking in snacks for recess (easy access.)
I have talked about PlanetBox many times before in posts and in my classes. They are a bit more pricey than your average nylon lunch box but believe me when I say you will use this daily and have it for years. You really do get your money’s worth. And as I have mentioned they do have a few different models with different compartment sizes so you can get what is best for your child. I think the Rover is great for younger kids and toddlers whereas the Launch is perfect for my son and his middle-school aged friends. All models are available on the PlanetBox website!
Don’t turn that dial just yet– I know that chives are not the most exciting food on the planet, but I really think this oniony herb has so much potential for adding some easy punch to your spring dishes! Contrary to popular belief, chives are not just the tops of scallions/green onions, but are their own species that grow like grass and are an herb rather than a form of onion. Yet they do have an onion-y flavor with a subtle hint of garlic that is delicious. I love chopping up a whole bunch to use in salads or using them on anything from eggs, to crostinis, baked potatoes, avocado toast and grilled fish. They have a nice delicate flavor and are so pretty when chopped up- they aren’t chunky and bulky like onions but still give that great flavor. Plus, they can really spruce up a dish with their bright vibrant color. I have used chives in several ways on my site, including in this spring salad, this vinaigrette for roasted cabbage wedges, in this sauce for grilled artichokes, as a garnish for these mushroom toasts, and in this homemade ranch dressing! And they are not just for looks, either! Being that they are that vibrant green color means that they are also great for you- chives provide Vitamin A, fiber and plenty of antioxidants to boot! Here are some chive recipes that I thought looked delicious!
Lemon and Chive Bruschetta from Love and Lemons
Green Goddess Hummus from Cookie and Kate
Fennel, Radish and Chive Salad from Giada De Laurentis
Fingerling Potato Salad with Chive Mayo from Saveur