I was browsing my ol’ faithful – Pinterest – when this recipe (eventually) caught my eye. I have a love-hate relationship with Pinterest when it comes to inspiring my dinner. Love – well, what’s not to love? There are literally millions of gorgeous photos, leading you to so many different recipes. It also lets me check out other blogs I would’ve never found otherwise. But sometimes it’s almost TOO much. It certainly doesn’t help me narrow down my plan if I have no idea what I want to make tonight. Even though I try to organize my Pinterest into food categories, the options are still overwhelming. Let’s take my “Chicken Entrees” board. I started there because we had chicken in the freezer that probably should be eaten. Obviously, each of these dishes appealed to me in some instance, because I saved them. So why did I find reasons to not make any of them tonight?? Browsing this board, I first clicked on Senegalese Chicken Yassa – 💭💭 nah, takes too long to make. Then, oooh Chicken & Dumplings – 💭💭 ehhh, Selim probably won’t want that tonight. Chicken Tikka Masala – 💭💭 oh yum, but I’m trying to write a new blog post and we’ve already done a tikka masala on here. Greek Chicken Meatballs – 💭💭 welllll we did just go on a rant about Greek food, so probably should hold off. But meatballs, that sounds good… let’s go down that rabbit hole… ⌨️ “chicken meatballs” 🖱️ And many clicks later, here we are.
And I’m glad we finally made it. These meatballs are great! And are a likely a bit healthier than the last meatballs you made. We ate them over rice noodles, which was great, but I think they’d be perfect as an appetizer as well.
Thai Turkey Meatballs
- 1 cup chopped carrots
- 1/2 small yellow onion, chopped
- 1 + 2 tbsp lime juice
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp fish sauce
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced + 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/4 crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp dried cilantro
- 5 large fresh basil leaves
- 5 turns fresh ground black pepper
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tsp coconut oil
- 1 can light coconut milk
- 2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Combine the first twelve ingredients (carrots through pepper – including the 1 tbsp of lime juice and 3 sliced cloves of garlic) in a food processor. Pulse until well-processed.
- In a large bowl, combine the mixture, ground turkey, and egg. Stir to combine well.
- Using your hands, form the mixture into small meatballs. (It will feel really wet!)
- Place meatballs on a lined cookie sheet.
- Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Then flip and bake another 15 minutes.
- While the meatballs are baking, prepare the sauce.
- In a large, high-edged pan over medium heat, swirl together coconut oil and just a dash of the coconut milk.
- Add the remaining garlic (2 cloves, minced) and cook for a few minutes until the garlic is fragrant.
- Now stir in the red curry paste. Allow to cook for just 1-2 more minutes.
- Then add the rest of the can of coconut milk and the remaining 2 tbsp lime juice.
- Maintain the sauce over medium heat, stirring occasionally until it thickens up a smidge.
- When the meatballs are done, place the in the pan. Remove from heat. Coat with the sauce.
- Serve over rice or rice noodles or with toothpicks as an appetizer.
Now that we’ve started using filo dough (see: Baklava – we’ve made it twice since posting it!), we’ve gained a little bit of confidence in working with the thin, finicky dough. So I knew Selim would want to tackle börek next. He loves börek – although it’s kind of hard to say it’s his favorite food, because there are about a million different types of börek. In Turkey, börek is essentially any dish prepared with yufka, which is (depending on when and where you read about it) the same as filo dough, the precursor of filo dough, or a slightly different texture from filo dough. I’m not educated enough to know which one it is. I do know that börek is delicious in every form I’ve ever had it and that this spinach-stuffed version is a quite traditional one.
I was eating some of this börek for lunch the other day in a breakroom at the hospital, when someone said, “Oh wow that smells delicious… What is it, spanakopita?” I could feel my husband cringing from a floor away. We’ll pause to let him go on his rant about Turkish food – how he would’ve answered had the friendly, innocent question been posed to him.
Selim: Many Americans love Mediterranean food and seem to always associate this with Greek food. So somehow, this has turned into Greek food being the most beloved cuisine, representing an entire region. Even more so, I feel like Americans think that the Greeks were the originators and only true architects of so many of the best dishes of the Middle East and Mediterranean. In fact, many of your favorites, originated elsewhere: baklava came out of the Ottoman palace kitchens in modern day Istanbul, while hummus was first documented in 13th century Cairo. The vast reach of the Ottoman empire and centuries of trading routes surely contributes to the regional spread of cuisine – you can find dishes with very similar ingredients and preparations, but different names from the Balkans to the Levant, the Caucasus to Northern African. (This is not to say that there aren’t amazing Greek chefs or delicious dishes of Greek origin – the Greeks truly aren’t the subject of my rant.) I just hate that other cultures don’t get their due. Obviously, I’m biased as I’m ethnically half Turkish, but I wish Turkish cuisine was more recognized, available, and beloved in the US. So in short, while similar, this is börek, not spanakopita.
Spinach & Feta Börek
(Adapted from Sultan’s Kitchen by Özcan Ozan)
- 2 lbs fresh spinach
- 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
- 1/2 cup clarified butter, divided
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 3 eggs, divided
- 16oz feta cheese
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/3 cup milk
- ~20 sheets filo dough
- Salt & pepper
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Prepare the filling: cook the spinach briefly in boiling water over medium heat until wilted. Drain the water and squeeze the spinach to remove any additional water.
- Chop up the spinach.
- In a large pan oven medium heat, heat 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup clarified butter.
- Add the onions and spinach and cook for just 3-4 minutes until onions have softened.
- Allow the mixture to cool.
- Once cool, stir in the cheese, parsley, and 2 whisked eggs. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup clarified butter, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 egg, and milk.
- Brush this mixture on the bottom of a cookie sheet. Begin layering the filo dough, brushing each new layer with the butter mixture.
- Once halfway through the filo dough (~10 sheets), spread all of the spinach and cheese mixture out evenly.
- Resume layering the rest of the filo dough, brushing with the butter mixture as before, including a thorough coating over the last layer.
- Using a sharp knife, slice the börek into squares or triangles.
- Bake for 20 minutes, then lower the heat to 325 degrees and bake an additional 20 minutes.
- Allow the börek to stand for 10 minutes before eating.
Not going to lie to y’all. I have no idea what kind of fish I used to make this dish. I was trying to eat through some of our freezer foods and pulled this out. It’s tilapia, maybe? So we’ll just suggest you use any white fish of your choosing. This was another of those recipes that I threw together out of the refrigerator (and freezer) ingredients and ended up pretty happy with. The cakes are just a bit crisp on the outside and nice and moist on the inside. The flavors work well together I think. I ended up topping mine with a little bit of hummus; Selim added a dash of hot sauce. If I’d had some, I would spread some tzatziki on top of mine – that would’ve been perfect!
Fish Cakes with Feta & Olives
- 10oz white fish
- 4oz feta, crumbled
- 10 kalamata olives, chopped
- 1 cup cracker crumbs
- 1/2 small onion, diced
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 6-8 turns fresh ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil. Slide the fish into the pot, lower heat, and cover. Allow fish to poach for 10 minutes.
- Remove fish and pat dry.
- Break up the fish in a large bowl.
- Stir in all of the rest of the ingredients.
- Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.
- With your hands, scoop up a full handful of the fish mixture. Form into a ball between your hands. Place on the cookie sheet, and press down lightly with the heel of your hand to create the patty.
- Repeat step 7 for each patty.
- Bake for a total of 30 minutes. Flip halfway through, so each side cooks for 15 minutes.
Makes 6 patties.
In the last installation of What We Ate At Amy’s Graduation Party, I give you this interesting little cheese ball. I know cheese balls are kind of clichéd, standard party food, but that doesn’t mean they’re not delicious. I got trapped by this one (as usual) and stood there munching on it for longer than I should probably admit. I found this dish a little different and interesting because it is equally sweet and savory. As you’re tasting it, you notice the sweet first, then realize you’re also tasting a strong garlicky flavor. But it doesn’t clash in your mouth – it works perfectly!
I think this was the only dish at the party that wasn’t a tried & true family recipe. Mom had it at another party and asked for the recipe from her friend. She gave her a copy of a printed out recipe that’s called Mill Mountain Cheese Spread. For the life of me, I can’t figure out where that name came from or with whom the recipe originated. If you try to look up “mill mountain cheese spread” in quotations, Google tells you that there are ‘No results found.’ (And here I thought Google was invincible.) There is a place in Roanoke, Virginia called Mill Mountain – I’m guessing the recipe maybe came from some place near there? What I did find though via the nearly-invincible Google though, is a recipe with the exact same ingredients. The Taste of Home website has a recipe entitled French Quarter Cheese Spread, that they published in November/December issue of Simple & Delicious magazine. So we’ll give them credit, so as to give someone credit!
Sweet & Savory Cheese Ball
- 8oz cream cheese
- 1 clove garlic, minced finely
- 1 tbsp granulated onion
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 tsp brown mustard
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- Let cream cheese sit out until it is soft.
- In a bowl, mix together the cream cheese with the garlic and onion.
- Once mixed together well, form into a ball with your hands. Place the cheese ball onto the dish you’re going to serve it on, which needs to have raised edges.
- Chill, covered, in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine the remaining ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat on the stove.
- Once butter has melted, stir a few times to ensure the ingredients are combined. Then spoon over top of the cream cheese ball.
- Return dish to the refrigerator until just before time to serve.
- You can set this out ~15-20 minutes before your guests are arriving, so it returns to room temperature.
- Serve with crackers.
Given that my sister Amy was the center of attention for her own graduation celebration, she got to pick which dishes my mom made for the party. One of her absolute favorites is this pasta salad with shrimp. Pretty much any time Amy gets to pick, this is what she asks for. This family favorite comes from my aunt Townley, although she says she thinks she got it from a neighbor years ago. Isn’t that always how things like this work? We’ve always known it as ‘Townley’s Shrimp Pasta Salad,’ but she got it from the neighbor, who probably got it from someone else, and on and on. Maybe one day, Amy’s friends will know it as ‘Amy’s Shrimp Pasta Salad,’ since she’ll make it so many times. And maybe one of you will like it so much and go on to make it so many times that it because known as YOUR shrimp pasta salad!
Herbed Shrimp Pasta Salad
- 1 lb medium shell pasta
- 1 lb baby shrimp
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp dill
- 2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
- 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 of an onion, chopped
- 1 tsp oil
- Salt & pepper as needed
- Prepare the pasta according to instructions or however you normally do it.
- Drain the pasta, but while still hot, stir in the mayonnaise, dill, and Old Bay.
- Meanwhile, sauté the onion and garlic in the oil. Once softened, add the garlic and onions into the pasta, along with the shrimp.
- Stir everything together and top with a salt and pepper to your liking.
- Refrigerate until serving.
Makes ~8-10 servings if using as a main dish for a luncheon or similar. Is plenty for way more guests than that if part of a potluck with other dishes like we did for the party!
Ok, bear with me now. I know this isn’t the first post where I’ve started with – “this sounds kind of weird, but I promise you it’s really good!” This is another one of those. I don’t know who originally thought, 💭Hmm… let me combine some eggs and crab and make a dip out of it, but I’m glad s/he did. My aunt Ann has made this dip for as long as I can remember, and I’ve always loved it. It’s super easy to throw together for a party and definitely something your guests probably haven’t eaten before. It’s a fairly mild dip, that will please most palates, provided they like crab/seafood. It’s delicious and addicting spread on crackers. I like it with a drop of hot sauce on top! Let us know what you think!
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Pinch of Crab Egg Dip
- 9 eggs, hard-boiled
- 3 6oz tins of crabmeat (obviously use fresh if you’re so inclined/budgeted)
- 2 tbsp poppyseeds
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- Chop up the hardboiled eggs.
- Mix all of the ingredients together.
- Chill until serving. Serve with crackers.
I don’t really know how to describe portions of a dip. This makes the amount of dip pictured above, served at a large party.
Ally: What is casserole bread? Honestly, I had no idea when I was first looking at this recipe. Not joking, I literally googled, “what is casserole bread.” Basically, as best I can tell, it just means that you don’t knead it or let it rise so much, and therefore, it’s a much quicker and easier type of bread to make. True? Anyone know? I can definitely attest that it was the easiest and fastest loaf of bread I’ve ever made.
Selim: When I saw the casserole dish I immediately thought, “oh great casserole…” When I think of casseroles I think of condensed soup, canned vegetables, sodium, and a burnt tongue (I always underestimate how long to let it cool before eating it). As always, I was happy to be wrong when I saw this massive ball of dough heaping over the top. The funny thing is, the savory smells of the ingredients started filling our place well before the whole thing was put in the oven. The yeast starts working really quickly when warmed up and immediately started raising the dough – yay chemistry! This bread would go well with any poultry dish (chicken, turkey, duck) or Thanksgiving dinner if you can get people to try something different instead of bland rolls.
Savory Casserole Bread
Adapted from a Southern Living Cookbook – American’s Best Home Cooking
- 4 1/2 cups flour
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp granulated onion
- 1 tbsp granulated garlic
- 4 1/2 tsp active yeast (or 2 packets)
- 1 1/2 (+ a little more) cups sharp cheddar cheese
- 2 tbsp melted butter
- ~2 cups warm water
- Place all ingredients except for the water into the bowl of your stand mixer.
- Turn the mixer on low, with a dough hook attached.
- Slowly add the water as the mixer is going. You may not use all or may need slightly more. You want the dough to come together into a slightly sticky ball.
- Place the dough into a 2 1/2 quart baking dish (buttered, oiled, or sprayed with cooking spray). Push it down to fill fully.
- Cover and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
- After rising, sprinkle a little bit of additional cheese on top.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 40 minutes.
- After baking, remove from the oven and allow to cool in the dish for 10 minutes.
- Then remove from the baking baking dish to a wire rack to cool for another 10 minutes.
Makes a LARGE loaf!