Meatballs…Not Just for Italians Anymore | Cooking Through Construction 

I’ve been doing A LOT of cooking in the basement and, guys, it’s a breeze!  Really!  It’s all about the set up and having the right tools.  Once I set up my long, white table with various cooking utensils, spices, seasonings, and (most importantly) my Keurig, it was simple after that!  Plus, the tool that’s making it all possible…my Instant Pot.

71-ak79nv1L._SL1500_Special PSA about the Instant Pot:  if you’re a busy mom or new to cooking or a retired person or if you like to eat in general, you need an Instant Pot.  Let me repeat.  You NEED an Instant Pot.  You can order it right here.

I’ll wait.

Now that that’s out of the way, I can tell you about the two awesome meatball recipes I’ve made in our Basement Bistro.

First, we departed from the norm and tried Asian.  I know what you’re thinking…Asian?  In meatballs?  Ugh…  But trust me.  They were AWESOME.  They were so awesome in fact that I didn’t even snap a picture!  Jake gobbled them up and asked for seconds!  He never asked for seconds when it comes to meat!  He even asked when I could make them again.

A few nights later, we went Swedish and had some of their meatballs.  And the best part was I didn’t even have to cook the noodles!  Everything was cooked in one pot at the same time! You know what that means?  Daddy got dish duty.  The one thing I would change with this recipe is the cook time.  I didn’t trust the cook time in the recipe I followed, so I upped the amount.  What resulted was overcooked noodles.  But the rest of the recipe was still delicious!  Don’t worry…I adjusted it for you already.

If you’re family is like mine and loves meatballs, try either (or both) of these recipes!  I promise you they’ll be a hit.

Meal #1
Asian Meatballs with Rice
(adapted from this page)

1.25 lbs ground turkey
1 tbsp garlic
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 large egg
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Honey (optional)
Trader Joe’s brown rice (optional)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and roll into 1” balls.  Preheat Instant Pot on “saute” and cook your meatballs for 5 minutes, turning to brown each side.  Add ½ cup soy sauce.  Cancel your Instant Pot and hit “manual”.  Add cover to instant pot, making sure the valve is closed.  Choose “manual” high pressure and cook for 15 minutes.

When your pot beeps to let you know it’s done cooking, let the pressure release naturally while you heat up your rice.  In this case, I chose to use Trader Joe’s brown rice because it’s easy.  If you opt to cook your own, it’s best you start both the rice and the meatballs at the same time.

Once your meatballs are finished, drizzle them with honey to sweeten them slightly if you like.  Serve over rice with extra soy sauce or, my favorite, Frank’s Sweet Chili sauce.

I really kick myself for not taking a photo of these meatballs.  We were all so hungry, they vanished before I even thought about it.  The one above is the only one I have so it’ll have to do.

This meal is declared a “freezer meal” on the original page.  You can make all your meatballs ahead of time and throw everything in the pot the night of.  The IP will cook the meatballs from frozen in the same amount of time it cooked the thawed ones.  I don’t know why…I don’t make the rules. (Name that movie, anyone??)


Meal #2
Swedish Meatballs
(from this recipe)

1.5 cups low sodium beef broth
1/2 cup milk
1 can cream of mushroom soup
16 oz egg noodles
one 24oz bag (frozen & fully cooked) meatballs
1 block cream cheese

Mix the beef broth, milk, and soup in your Instant Pot.  Cover with egg noodles.  Top with meatballs.  Press “manual” and let cook for 8 minutes.  Once the pot beeps, release the pressure.  I like to add a hand towel to the top so it doesn’t splatter soup steam all over.

Once the pressure switch drops, remove lid and mix in your cream cheese.  Serve to hungry boys!

I hope you try these recipes and find something you like!  What is your favorite meatball recipe?



15 Minute Pad Thai

IMG_7593editedOne of my favorite meals of all time in Pad Thai.  I have a hard time not ordering it whenever I go to my favorite Thai restaurant, Thai 9.  (PS…if you love Thai food, or even if you’ve never had it, GO to Thai 9.  Soooooo good.)

I’ve tried making Pad Thai before, but it’s a little daunting.  Lots of ingredients (some hard to find) and it’s kind of involved.  Alton Brown makes it look easy but, hey, it’s Alton Brown.

IMG_7592editedThe other night I was playing around with some stir fry and decided to add a dash or so of a dressing I had in the fridge.  Wow.  Jeff and I agreed it tasted JUST LIKE PAD THAI!  It was awesome!

Now, it’s no replacement for the real, authentic thing (or as authentic as you can be in the mid west), but it’s definitely a great stand in until we get the time to head back to Thai 9.

IMG_7594edited15 Minute Pad Thai

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced
3 packages ramen noodles
1/2 bottle Ken’s Steak House Asian Sesame Dressing
3 eggs, lightly beaten
wok oil (or vegetable oil)
Optional:  bean sprouts, chopped peanuts, lime wedges, basil

In a wok (or large frying pan), heat your wok oil over medium heat.  Sprinkle your chicken with salt and pepper and cook until no longer pink.  This step takes maybe 5 minutes depending on the size of your chicken.  I like to cut mine into bite sized pieces so it’s quicker.

Meanwhile, bring some water to a boil in a large saucepan.  Add the flavor packets to your water and cook your ramen according to the package.  Mine usually says about 3 minutes.  Drain, rinse, and set aside.

Remove the chicken from the pan, add a drizzle more oil to the pan.  Turn the heat up to high (most Asian food is cooked at a very high temperature) and add your ramen.  Keep the ramen moving a bit so as not to burn it.  After a minute or two, make a well in the middle of your noodles and add your eggs.  Stir your eggs without bringing any of the ramen into them until they are lightly cooked.  Then you can start incorporating your noodles.  Your goal is to have the eggs slightly scrambled and then add the noodles so the noodles get somewhat cooked together and clump slightly.

Add your chicken and your dressing.  Go a little light on the dressing at first and adjust to your taste.  I like to add maybe 1/3 of the bottle, toss to coat, and then let cook for a minute or so.  The sauce thickens slightly and clings to the dish even better.  If I think it still needs some flavor or looks a little dry, I’ll add more dressing.

Your options to top this dish are pretty vast.  Traditionally Pad Thai is made with bean sprouts, but I’m not a fan so I leave them out.  It is also usually topped with Thai Basil leaves, chopped peanuts, and a wedge of lime.  One of the great things about this dish is you can keep most of the ingredients in your pantry at all times and whip it up when you are running late from work.  The downfall is I had none of these optional ingredients on hand at the time of cooking, hence no “optionals” in the photos.


Oh well.  It still tasted incredible.

Knock Off Bang Bang Shrimp

I grew up not liking shrimp.  At all.  It was standard fare at all our holiday parties to have shrimp cocktail.  I was really good at making the cocktail sauce, but I hated the shrimp part.  Then one day something changed.  I remember the day, actually.  My dad, sister, and I were at Bubba Gump’s in Maui and my sister ordered a cajun roasted shrimp dish (I think).  It smelled so good but when offered some, I declined.  I just did not like shrimp.

I kept thinking about that shrimp dish over and over again.  I tend to obsess about things sometimes.  I found myself regretting not trying the dish.  I told myself the next time someone had shrimp, I would try some.  I’m not sure exactly when that time came, but I do remember eating my weight in shrimp at the next holiday party.

From that moment on, I was in love with shrimp.  Shrimp cocktail, grilled shrimp, fried shrimp, shrimp in a salad or soup, shrimp ice cream…ok, maybe not the shrimp salad.  😉  Needless to say, I found myself turning into Bubba himself!

I tried all sorts of dishes, but then I went to Bonefish Grill.  I had heard their appetizer Bang Bang Shrimp was really good, so we ordered it.  Oh. My. Gosh.  It was so yummy!  Crispy, sweet, spicy, and so flavorful!  I was in love.  Every time I go to Bonefish, I order it.  The last time I went with Chrissy and Jeff, we only got one and I panicked a little because I thought I wouldn’t get my fill.  Jeff, being the wonderful husband he is, only ate a few and let me have more than my share.  Such a great guy!

Several months ago, I was flipping through my copy of Food Network Magazine when I came across their “Copy That!” article.  Every month, they pick a dish from a restaurant that has had some fame associated with it in the past.  One month they did the Cheddar Bay biscuits from Red Lobster, one month was the Cinnamon Rolls from Cinnabon, and so on.  April’s dish, however, was my beloved Bang Bang Shrimp.  I immediately texted Chrissy and told her we’d have to make them some day!

Last weekend, while going through my recipes and organizing them, I came across the article again.  I quickly scanned the recipe to see if I had all the ingredients.  I was only missing one thing, albeit one of the most important ingredients, but I thought I’d try it anyhow.  I gathered my things and away I went…

Bang Bang Shrimp
(from Food Network Magazine’s April 2010 issue)

For the sauce:
1/2 cup mayonaisse
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp Asian chili sauce (I would have used chili garlic sauce if I’d had it, but this was the one ingredient I was lacking)
2 tsp honey
kosher salt

For the shrimp:
Vegetable Oil, for frying
2 large eggs
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1.25 pounds small shrimp, peeled and deveined

First thing’s first.  Heat up your oil in a heavy bottomed skillet.  You want your oil temperature to be at 350°.  I’m sure you could do this without the aide of a candy/oil thermometer, but I wouldn’t suggest it.

Next, make the sauce.  Mix together the mayonnaise, Asian sauce, honey, 1 tbsp water, and 1/4 tsp salt.  Set aside.

On to the shrimp.  If you’ve ever pan fried something before, you’ll be familiar with this process.  In one bowl, mix together the flour, cornstarch, and 1 tsp each salt and pepper.  In a separate bowl, whisk your eggs until they are nice and smooth.

Working in batches, dredge your shrimp in the flour mixture, then coat in the eggs, then coat once more in the flour.  The first bout of flour is so the eggs will stick to the shrimp.  The second bout of flour is to create the yummy, crispy crust.

Drop your shrimp, one at a time, in the hot oil.

Fry for 1-2 minutes or until lightly golden.  The cleaner your oil, the lighter the color will be.  I think I ended up leaving my shrimp in the oil for about 3 minutes to get the warm, rich color I was looking for.

Move the shrimp to some paper towels to drain.  Sprinkle lightly with salt.  Repeat the process with the rest of the shrimp.

Toss the shrimp with the sauce and serve over a bed of bibb lettuce if you so desire.

Or do like I did and eat the first batch directly over the paper towel.