Steak & Rice bowl, Mexican style

Sliced steak, grilled vegetables, Mexican seasoned rice and a refreshing tomato cilantro garnish – top it all off with this Chipotle Honey Vinaigrette and you’ve got a winning dinner.

 

We love a good dinner bowl that packs a lot of flavour.  This dressing kicks everything up a notch with the combination of sweet, smoky and spicy.  I use it on everything, and tonight it did triple duty as a dressing to brush on vegetables before grilling, a marinade for the steak and then a drizzle over the completed dish.

  • 1/2 cup avocado oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender and simply whizz it up until smooth and creamy.

RICE

In the same blender you used for the dressing, whiz up 1 tomato, 1 garlic clove, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp chicken stock and some minced cilantro stems.  Supplement that with water to give you enough for your usual ratio of water/rice.

VEGETABLES

Season the vegetables with the dressing above and grill until just cooked and still slightly crisp.

STEAK

Brush the steaks with a little of the dressing above and allow to sit at room temperature for 1 hour – Grill to desired temperature.  We like ours medium rare.

GARNISH

Quarter mini tomatoes and mince up cilantro.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, and give it all a squeeze of lime.

 

Pile it all on top of the rice and drizzle the dressing over – I guarantee you will be making this on repeat. Go ahead and buy the good steak – you don’t need much to complete your dinner.

I think this would work equally well with any protein you chose to make – and at this time of year when the vegetables are coming in strong locally it would make an amazing vegetarian meal if you just added more of a variety of vegetables. I missed grilling onions tonight and I think that would have added a great punch of flavour.

The vinaigrette came from Love and Lemons, a great website with so many amazing recipes.

Chipotle Vinaigrette

Is there anything better than a vinaigrette that you want to use on everything? I doubt it. We’ve used it to dress up grilled vegetables, served it drizzled over a Mexican steak bowl, and of course just as dressing for a simple salad. The added bonus is that this is the easiest dressing to make.

Use it in a variety of ways – today it was drizzled over a Mexican Steak Bowl, and it was perfect with the combination of sweet, smoky and spicy.
  • 1/2 cup avocado oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 chipotle pepper from a can of chipotle in adobo sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

The directions are embarrassingly easy ….. simply toss it all in a blender and let it whizz until everything is creamy and smooth. The combination of chipotle, honey and lime is brilliant.

Grilled steak and vegetables, served over a bed of Mexi style rice and garnished with a juicy fresh tomato and cilantro salad. This dressing is amazing.

This recipe came from the the Love and Lemons website, and you can be sure anything from Jeanine Donofrio is going to be delicious.

Thai Inspired Steak Salad

It’s hard to spot the salad underneath, but it’s there! A tangle of wheat noodles and crunchy salad greens is the base of this – go ahead and use rice noodles or just omit the noodles entirely.

I love a full meal deal salad! This tangle of vegetables, both fresh and grilled, served mixed with noodles and garnished with steak and nuts is just the best. It’s on repeat around here. Go ahead and splurge for the best steak – you don’t need much to make it a complete meal.

This dressing is the star of the show – it is light and bright with just the perfect amount of zing.

  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 2-3 tbsp chili garlic sauce
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce (reduced sodium)
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp raw sugar (or honey)
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp fresh Thai basil, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame seeds **
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup peanut oil
  • kosher salt to taste

** I’m a big fan of toasting nuts or seeds as it adds so much flavour. Watch closely because they go from deeply toasted (my personal favourite) to black …. beware. (yes, I speak from experience)

Whisk all the ingredients, except the oils, together in a bowl. Once combined, slowly drizzle in the oils and continue to whisk until well blended. This is the part where you taste, and adjust if needed – sometimes you need a bit more lime juice, salt or sweetener. If you prefer your dressing on the spicy side, add in a bit of Thai chili or chili flakes.

This recipe is just as versatile as whatever you have on hand. Tonight this dish included:

  • Chinese wheat noodles (cooked)
  • salad greens
  • mint leaves
  • basil leaves
  • cilantro leaves
  • cucumber
  • tomato
  • bean sprouts
  • grilled red pepper
  • grilled zucchini
  • steamed baby bok choy
  • grilled beef tenderloin
  • toasted cashews
  • toasted sesame seeds

I like to make a salad out of the cold cooked noodles and fresh vegetables, and pile that in the bottom of my bowl. Arrange the cooked vegetables around the sides along with the grilled steak. Drizzle with the dressing and sprinkle the cashews and sesame seeds over.

If you have time, and have a steak that needs marinating, just use a bit of the dressing. This works equally well with chicken, pork or tofu. If you want to use shrimp make sure to only give it a quick marinade.

When grilling the vegetables, drizzle with a little of the dressing before and after grilling.

When you start with a fresh salad as the base, everything is tastier!!

Vietnamese Salt & Pepper Squid

That dipping sauce might look a little muddy, but trust me, it was delicious!

One of the dishes (among many) that we loved on our travels through Vietnam and Cambodia was Salt & Pepper squid.  Naturally, that squid was ultra fresh, and so very tender it literally melted in your mouth.  Typically served with a bowl of rice, and a pile of greens it is the perfect light dinner.  I love the combination of flavours found in most Vietnamese dishes – fish sauce, lime juice and pepper.  Those show up in so many tasty dishes – makes my mouth water just thinking about it!

SALT & PEPPER SQUID

  • 400 gr squid **
  • 1 tbsp coarse salt
  • 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup rice flour (you can substitute corn starch)

OIL – to use for frying – make sure you use a high smoke point oil such as peanut, canola or vegetable. – heat to 350 degrees.  If you don’t have a thermometer, stick a chopstick in there …. once it bubbles all around the chopstick it is ready.

SALAD OR GREENS TO SERVE

Prep whatever fresh vegetables or salad you want to serve.

DRESSING

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ginger, minced
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh red chili, seeded and finely chopped (or chili flakes to taste)
  • 2 spring onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1-2 tbsp sugar (I usually stick with 1)
  • 4 tbsp fish sauce
  • 4 tbsp water

If you try anything – make it this dressing! I use it for salads all the time and it is so light and refreshing while adding so much flavour to a simple salad.

** Squid – if you can get it fresh then clean it and slice into rings – leaving tentacles whole.  I’ve only used frozen at this point but you know I will be sourcing some fresh squid!!

Once your squid is prepped, bash up the salt and pepper in a mortar and pestle – bash until cracked and broken but don’t turn it in to a fine grind.  Sprinkle a little directly onto the prepared squid.  Pour the rest into a bowl with the flours and stir until combined.

When oil is hot enough,  put a handful of the squid into the salt/pepper/flour mix and toss to coat lightly and cook in batches in the hot oil.  Do not overcrowd your oil or it will cool down and your squid will absorb more of the oil. 

Remove from oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.  

If you like a dipping sauce – just bash up a bit more salt and pepper, mixing it with fresh lime juice.

The dressing couldn’t be easier!  Again, the mortar and pestle comes into action so I hope you didn’t clean it after bashing salt and pepper …… Drop in garlic, ginger, spring onion and chili …give it a good bit of action until you have created a paste.  Add lime juice, sugar, fish sauce and water.  TASTE.  TASTE IT AGAIN.  Every single item can be a slightly different taste profile from what I am using and for your individual tastes.  Adjust if necessary.  It should be slightly sweet, slightly salty, slightly hot and slightly tangy.  

If you don’t have a mortar and pestle then just chop everything quite fine and add in the other ingredients … I have about 3 of them so I love using them but don’t run out and buy one if you don’t love the process!

To serve lightly dress your salad with the dressing, pile the squid on and serve with a side of rice if you like, just the way it is served in Cambodia & Vietnam ….. oh take me back! We bought our pepper from the Kampot Pepper Plantation in Cambodia. Touted as the best pepper in the world we had no choice. It really does make a difference when the pepper is that fresh.

Give that salt and pepper a good bash up, but stop before it is all pulverized, a little texture is perfect.
I wish you could smell this! (even though fish sauce tastes a lot better than it smells)
Ready to be dressed at the last moment – this is so light, partially due to the lack of oil.
At the Kampot Pepper Plantation …. yes, those ladies are hand selecting black peppercorns with tweezers!

Korean Pancakes

OMG – so good. This and a salad was perfect for dinner.

I love making scallion pancakes, really wanted something that could be a whole meal deal, and ended up with this – a bit of mash up between Korean Pajeon pancakes, Japanese Okonomiyaki and Chinese scallion pancakes. This gojuchang dipping sauce makes it slightly more Korean influenced, but if you don’t have gojuchang in your fridge then you could easily make a dipping sauce of soy sauce and rice vinegar. (or buy something!)

PANCAKE BATTER

  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup potato starch (could sub corn starch if this isn’t one of your staples)
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups ice water
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

Oil for cooking

VEGETABLE SUGGESTIONS

  • shredded cabbage
  • slivers of spinach
  • very thinly sliced cauliflower
  • minced red onion
  • very thinly sliced red pepper
  • lots of thinly sliced scallions (spring onions)

Prepare all your vegetables and set aside

If you are inclined to do so, go ahead and add shrimp or cooked shredded chicken to make it a heartier pancake. If you do – I’d add it as soon as the batter is spread out in the pan so you can distribute evenly.

DIPPING SAUCE

  • 1/4 cup light soy sauce (I use reduced sodium)
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp gojuchang
  • 1/2 tsp finely slivered ginger
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1 finely sliced spring onion
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Mix well and taste. NO REALLY, SERIOUSLY, TASTE!!! Every different product has a slightly different flavour profile, and you have your own taste preferences so make sure this dipping sauce hits all the notes you are looking for and adjust as needed. Of course, if you aren’t a cooking nut like myself, you may not have all that in your pantry so just buy a jar of dumpling/gyoza dipping sauce! ha ha

METHOD

Whisk together dry ingredients until well combined. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and stir in the ice water and minced garlic. Stir just until combined, then add in the vegetables.

I haven’t specified any amounts for the vegetables, so feel free to experiment with how you like the pancakes. This amount of batter will make 4 good size pancakes with a generous serving of vegetables in each one – feel free to pack in as many veg as you like – you literally only need enough batter to hold it all together in the fry pan.

In a non stick pan, heat about 3 tbsp oil until quite hot – stick a wooden chopstick in, and if it sizzles you are ready!

Scoop in about 1 cup of batter and quickly spread it out so it resembles a pancake. Gently swirl the pan allowing the oil to circulate so the pancake gets crispy bits and nicely browned. Like any pancake, only flip it once you start to see bubbles popping on the surface.

Flip, drizzle another tablespoon or so of oil around the edges and swirl so this second side also gets crispy around the edges.

When nicely browned on both sides, remove to paper towel lined plate and keep warm. As soon as you remove it from the heat sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds, and a fresh grate of salt.

This is what I had in the fridge today, so this is what the pancake had! Go ahead and find your own favourites, I really wanted bean sprouts but couldn’t find any decent ones at the store.
You could easily get more vegetables in there, and also create a thinner batter with just a bit more ice water. Whisk an egg into the batter if you are looking for extra protein but want to omit any seafood or meat, and keep it vegetarian.
Todays version included some raw shrimp, which I quickly placed as soon as the batter was down in the pan, and then sprinkled with sesame seeds. I wouldn’t use cooked shrimp as they might toughen up.
What a beauty!
Sprinkle with seasoning as soon as you take them off the pan and keep warm until ready to serve. I also sprinkled with a little bit of Furikake today.

If you have never tried gojuchang, then do so! I love it. My first foray into cooking with it was for KFC, Korean Fried Cauliflower and was immediately hooked. It is a Korean chili paste that has so much flavour – slightly tangy and not too spicy.

Creamy Garlicky Shrimp Tagliatelle

I don’t know about you, but an advertised 20 minute recipe NEVER takes me 20 minutes.  This one was close tho ….. and very easy.  Not only easy, but delicious and I’m more than happy to spend a few more minutes to achieve delicious.

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  • 8 ounces dried tagliatelle pasta (or really, any pasta you like!)
  • 2 tbsp butter (separated, see below)
  • olive oil
  • 10 ounces small, peeled and cleaned shrimp
  • 3 garlic cloves (yes, really)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (I like sauvignon blanc but any dry white will work – stay away from sweet tho)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 1 cup sliced crimini mushrooms
  • 1 cup asparagus (cut into 1″ pieces)
  • 1/2 cup minced sun dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes (or to taste)
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan (do NOT use purchased grated!)
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
  • black pepper
  • more parmesan for serving
  1. Get a large pot of water on the stove and bring it to a boil.  Salt and add pasta.  Cook to one minute short of the cooking instructions …. (in order to finish in the cream sauce).
  2. Before draining, scoop out about 1/2 cup of pasta water.
  3. Get a nice flat bottom skillet (non-stick works great here) and melt 1 tbsp butter.  Drain your shrimp and pat dry (you don’t want them to steam) ….. toss the shrimp into the melted butter and sauté quickly – until ALMOST cooked.  Depending on your shrimp size this might only take a minute or two.  There is nothing worse than rubbery, overcooked shrimp.  Well, okay, lots of things are worse including this COVID nightmare we are living through….  Remove from heat and lightly season with salt and pepper.
  4. In the same skillet heat the other tbsp butter and add a splash of olive oil – once melted add the onions, sauté until soft, add mushrooms and cook until just lightly browned, then add the garlic, asparagus and sun dried tomatoes.  Add chili flakes.
  5. Stir in the white wine and allow to reduce slightly, then add the chicken broth, cream and parmesan.  Season to taste ….  I didn’t need to add any more salt but that finishing black pepper is great.
  6. Add your mostly cooked pasta to the skillet and toss to cover.  The sauce will continue to thicken and this is the time to add some of your reserved pasta water a bit at a time, only as needed.  Stir in the shrimp to heat through, toss with parsley and serve with a grating of fresh parmesan and black pepper.
  7. Dig in!
These plump & juicy little guys are barely cooked and will finish in the cream sauce
Easy to make this a vegetarian meal – just stir in as many veg as you like and omit the shrimp.

Spinach Feta Chicken Meatballs

These chicken meatballs were so moist, bursting with spinach and feta that Grant was still raving about them the next morning, and trust me – he is not usually a fan of chicken meatballs!

Served over fresh pasta, these little nuggets were absolutely perfect!

Quick and easy, this makes a perfect week night dinner. No fancy plating required. Well my husband and son in laws never think fancy plating is required. (They are usually involved in clean up so that’s understandable!)

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1 tsp minced fresh garlic
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Start by warming a splash of olive oil in your saute pan, as soon as it has heated up add the minced onions and allow to soften, then add your garlic and just warm through. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Take pan off the heat and add the spinach, stirring just until it is wilted. Remove the mixture from your pan and place in a bowl in the fridge. You don’t want to add anything hot to your raw chicken! Please don’t skip the step with sweating out the onions. A raw onion is a totally different item when compared to a softened, slightly carmelized onion.

Season ground chicken with salt, pepper and basil (fresh if you have it). Crumble in feta cheese and stir to combine. Add the cooled onion spinach mixture and bread crumbs. Stir gently to combine.

Form golf ball size meatballs and brown in your saute pan on all sides, then add to your sauce.

Use the same saute pan for everything! Sweat your onion mixture, and reserve the pan to fry the meatballs, then remove the browned meatballs and heat up your sauce. Once the sauce is warm return the meatballs to the sauce and heat through.

See the butter? Hardly a drop in the bucket, but we’ve been watching Stanley Tucci in Italy and the amount of butter in pasta sauces is mind blowing! This sauce was pretty easy, one of my frozen ratatouille batches with a can of good quality canned tomatoes. With the greek influenced meatballs I added some black olives, capers, artichokes and more freshly crumbled feta once the sauce was cooked.

Amazing Flour Tortillas

Let me know if you find anything more appealing than a basket of fresh flour tortillas
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/3 cup rendered lard, duck fat, vegetable shortening or unsalted butter 
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting 
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder 
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt 

  1. Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until tiny bubbles start to form around the edges of the pan (the milk should be 180 degrees F), 4 to 5 minutes. Immediately remove from the heat and stir in the lard until melted. Let cool for 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl until completely combined. Pour in the warm milk mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until a shaggy dough forms. 
  3. When cool enough to handle, knead the dough in the bowl until almost completely smooth, about 3 minutes; do not overwork, the dough should be soft and only slightly elastic and not sticky. Wrap in plastic and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour to relax dough. 
  4. Divide the dough into 16 balls about a scant 3 tablespoons each (or 46g.). Arrange the balls on a rimmed baking sheet and cover with a damp kitchen towel until ready to use.  
  5. Working with one dough ball at a time, roll out on a lightly floured surface to a 7-inch round. 
  6. Heat a medium cast-iron skillet or large griddle over medium-high heat.  
  7. Working with one at a time (unless using a large griddle), cook the tortillas, reducing the heat if they are getting dark too quickly, until air bubbles form on the surface and the bottom is brown in spots, about 30 seconds. Poke any large bubbles with a fork to release steam, flip the tortillas and cook until brown in spots on the other side, about 30 seconds. Stack and wrap the tortillas in a clean kitchen towel and keep warm. Repeat rolling and cooking the remaining dough balls.
This soft, supple dough was so easy to work with – 16 tortillas rolled out in 20 minutes.
Love the way the tortillas start to puff up – you just know deliciousness is coming.
Perfect!!!!!
Can NOT wait for family dinners to resume (damn you Covid), and I just know everybody is going to love these pork carnitas with fresh flour tortillas.
This soft flour tortilla is just perfect for wrapping up tender pork carnitas, pickled onions, avocado and cilantro. Don’t forget to squeeze lime over it all! The absolute best carnitas can be found in Michoacan, but we’ve found amazing carnitas at the mercado in Mexico City as well. Until we can travel again, we satisfy this craving at home.

Rick Andrew Martinez is my idol. His recipes are always amazing, and this one is no exception. By far it was the easiest recipe to work with and roll out, but what made this recipe SO amazing was the taste. Can’t be beat. Seriously, can’t be beat. I copied this recipe right from his post on Food Network, and if you want more amazing content just check out anything he does.

Alex’s smash hit dressing!

Longer brighter days are coming and I can’t wait. We have a salad almost every night, and with the warmer weather approaching they often take the form of a “meal in a salad”. This dressing hits it out of the park for a delicious flavour bomb to dress pretty much anything with. Give it a try, I guarantee you’ll be hooked.

Salad tonight, but it could easily dress a rice bowl or serve over salmon.
  • 1/4 cup tamari (can sub soy sauce)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp chili garlic sauce
  • 1 tbsp miso paste
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • dash of fish sauce (optional but highly recommended)
  • 1 garlic clove, grated (unless they are home grown, then maybe 1/4-1/2 a clove) :o)
  • 1″ ginger, grated
  • thinly sliced scallions

Put everything in a jar and shake vigorously – really vigorously. If you use warm water it will help loosen up the miso if it’s straight out of the fridge.

Drizzle lightly and grill – another sure fire winner.

This recipe came from our friend Alex – she is an amazing cook, and agreed to let me post it! #abcooks

Chicken Karaage

How can chicken so crunchy be this tender? Try it and see.

One of our favourites to order in a Japanese restaurant, this is just as good as restaurant quality. Don’t get me wrong, whenever we can go out to restaurants again (post Covid) I will still be delighted to sit in a booth and order ….. but for now I can at least satisfy my cravings. It is also one of Sloan and Stella’s favourites to order and I just know when we can gather around the Sunday dinner table again this will be requested.

  • 1 lb chicken thighs cut 1 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup corn starch or potato starch
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 4 cups canola oil
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp mirin (sub Sake if you have it)
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp minced ginger

Reserve the starch and flour for just prior to frying up. Combine soy sauce, miring, garlic and ginger in either a sealable plastic bag or bowl with lid. Stir in the chicken pieces and set aside. You can either do this earlier in the day or at late as 20 minutes before dinner – I find it very flexible.

Heat your oil to 350, if you don’t have a thermometer, just stick a chopstick in – if it sizzles happily, then it is time to add your chicken.

Toss the starch and flour together, then toss with chicken. It doesn’t matter if the coating is uneven, it just means more texture.

Add about 1/3 of the chicken at a time to wok – do not overcrowd. Any time you overcrowd when you are frying it reduces the temperature of the oil and that leads to greasy fried food! Keep the chicken moving while in the wok, and remove when golden brown. Sprinkle immediately with salt. Keeping the cooked pieces in a 200 degree oven allows them to retain their crispness while you do the remaining 2 batches.

DIPPING SAUCES – I’ve given two options because that’s the way I like it!

CREAMY

  • 1/2 cup Kewpie Mayonnaise
  • 3 tbsp sriracha
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp sweet chili sauce

SOY

  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • chili oil to taste
This well used wok is perfect. Of course, you can use a deep fryer if you have it handy, but I like the wok just fine for this, and it encourages me to fry only small amounts at a time. Be sure to strain and reserve your oil for use another day!
Love having the option of two sauces – everybody gets their own little sauce dipping bowl and dip away!
Definitely not as many vegetables as we normally get onto our plates, but this Japanese dinner was so tasty! I even made my own gyoza wrappers and that’s a story for another day…..