Chicken meatball and cauliflower rice banh mi bowl

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So, this is technically a recipe for a banh mi bowl, but the components can be customized in zillions of ways. The chicken meatballs can go in any direction, as can the cauliflower rice.

But first, banh mi. It's technically a Vietnamese sandwich with pickled carrots and daikon radishes, cucumbers, cilantro, a spicy mayonnaise, some sort of pate or liverwurst, and another cooked meat. Availability of great Banh mi is the one thing I miss about living in Brooklyn where we used to order these sandwiches at least once a week. That's also possibly why I gained a lot of weight when we lived there.

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Now when a craving strikes, I like to incorporate banh mi flavors in a cauliflower rice bowl. 

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I have mixed feelings about carb and starch substitutes. Unless whatever you're eating with the cauliflower rice is really flavorful, I don't think it passes for regular rice. However, while not really rice, I love this cauliflower on its own merits. It's really simple: sauteed onions, garlic, and salt are all you need. M even eats it and he is a traditional rice devotee.

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Now, the meatballs. I have experimented A LOT with chicken meatballs. As a perfectionist, I really really want them to be round. I've gone down the rabbit hole of meatball-making tips and so far, none of them have been entirely successful. I've tried adding more and less filler, more and less liquid, more and less fat, cooking directly in a sauce, roasting, sauteing, and chilling in various ways. The most successful tip I can offer from my trials and tribulations is that making them very very small is the key to quick cooking and maintaining a round shape. So if you care about roundness in your meatballs, use 1 teaspoon or less per ball.

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A couple of other notes:
- I've found that cheese is a better agent for adding moisture than milk because it doesn't make the mixture too slack. But while there is cheese in these balls, they don't taste cheesy at all, which makes the flavor more adaptable.
- I encourage you not to overcook these. Since there isn't a lot of fat or filler in these balls, they can dry out if left on the heat for too long. Using a meat thermometer is your best bet for cooking things fully, but not overdoing it.
-Speaking of cooking, I equally like roasting and sauteing these balls. I don't find that it makes a difference in the taste, texture, or shape of the final product. However, it's currently summer here on the east coast of the USA and hot as hell, so I don't always have it in me to turn on the oven. Either cooking method is great, so do what feels best (and least sweaty) for you.

 

Chicken meatball and cauliflower rice banh mi bowl 

Chicken meatballs
1 lb ground chicken
¾ cup panko
¼ cup grated parmesan
2 Tbsp full-fat ricotta (optional, as it may make the meatballs flatten slightly, but adds more moisture)
1 egg
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp kosher salt
pepper to taste

If roasting, preheat the oven to 425.

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix minimally with a spoon, spatula, or your hands, just until the ingredients are incorporated.

If sautéing the meatballs, add 1 Tablespoon of olive oil to a large pan and heat over a medium-low flame. 

Using wet hands, scoop out between 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon of the chicken mixture and roll into a ball. Add to a baking dish or the hot pan.   

If sauteing: Over medium-high flame, brown on one side and then turn the meatballs over to brown on the other side (about 2-4 minutes per side, depending on the size of your meatballs). Turn the flame to low and cover the pan. Cook until a thermometer inserted reaches 165 degrees or the meatballs are firm when you press on them and no pink remains in the middle, about 4-8 more minutes, depending on size.

If roasting: Cook for 8-10 minutes (again, the larger your meatballs, the longer they’ll need to cook) and check the meatballs (again, they’re done when the internal temperature reaches 165 or the balls are firm and no pink remains in the center).

Yield: 54 mini meatballs (1 tsp) or 24 small meatballs (1 Tbsp)

 

Cauliflower rice
1 Tbsp olive oil
½ small onion, chopped (a heaping ½ cup)
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 lb cauliflower rice (either pre-riced or use a 1 lb [usually a small] head of cauliflower and chop in a food processor)
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil over a medium-low flame. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Add the cauliflower rice and sauté for 5 minutes. Reduce the flame to low, cover, and cook for 13-15 minutes or until you’ve reached your desired consistency. I like a little bit of crunch to the rice, so I prefer to cook for slightly less time.

Yield: 4 cups

 

Pickled carrots and daikon radish
Adapted from The Banh Mi Handbook
1 medium daikon (about 1 lb)
3 large carrots (about 1 lb)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups white vinegar
1 cup warm water

Chop your vegetables into thin sticks and add to a large container.

In a separate large liquid measuring cup, add the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt. Mix with a whisk and microwave on high for 30 seconds and whisk again. Repeat as needed, microwaving for 10-15 seconds at a time, to dissolve the sugar.

Pour over the chopped vegetables and refrigerate for at least one hour or up to one month.


For the rice bowls:
Meatballs (see recipe)
Cauliflower rice (see recipe)
Pickled vegetables (see recipe)
Fresh cilantro, torn from the bunch
Cucumber, sliced
Scallions, sliced
Sriracha or other hot sauce
Mayonnaise (optional)

To assemble the bowl, use as much or as little of each ingredient as you like. We usually get about two adult-sized portions and one kid-sized portion from the cauliflower rice with meatballs and pickles left over. If your family is larger, increase the rice as needed and adjust cooking times. Your onions and garlic may need another minute each and the overall cooking time for the cauliflower may be slightly longer as well (but test often after the above instructed 15 minutes to avoid overcooking).

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Cucumber and watermelon juice

I food shopped last weekend as if we aren't moving 2 weeks from today. And we're not moving a few blocks away where we can schlep our leftover mayo in a cooler and voila, have a restocked fridge. We have an overnight in between moving out and moving in and somehow, I don't think the Hampton Inn's mini fridge can accommodate our haul of condiments. Call me crazy.

So, operation clean-out-the-fridge has begun and I completely forgot that I tossed a mini watermelon and a cucumber into my farmer's market bags last week. Before they went bad, I whizzed them up in the blender, added some lime juice for zing, and ran the whole thing through a fine mesh sieve. M was begging to bring it to school in his water bottle, but luckily he drank it all before we left the house, so I didn't have to break his heart by saying no.
 

One note: If you want to skip the sieving, look for a seedless watermelon and a hothouse or English cucumber for this recipe. Depending on your family's tolerance for pulp, you may also want to peel the cucumber too.

Cucumber and watermelon juice

2 oz cucumber
8 oz watermelon
1 Tbsp lime juice (Juice from 1 large lime)

Combine all ingredients and blend for 1 minute. If desired, pour juice into a fine-mesh sieve and press out liquid into a glass.

Yield: 1 serving (about 1 cup of juice)

Cucumber, green apple, and grape puree

Cucumber, green apple, and grape puree | Me & The Moose. Lightly steamed apple, raw grapes, and raw cucumber make a refreshing puree, frozen pop, or gummies. #meandthemoose #toddlerfood #fingerfood #cucumber #grapes #apple #puree #babyfood

Finger foods are rough, y'all. At least, they are in this house. M still does better when most of his veggies and proteins pureed, but he's really into feeding himself and gets ANNOYED when we try to help. He'll happily eat a pouch of broccoli, apples, and green beans (and is getting better at squeezing into his mouth), or fling pureed veggies and proteins from a bowl in the direction of his mouth with a spoon. But if I put a piece of broccoli or a green bean in front of him, he looks at me like, "What is this poison?" So, we're bridging the gap by adding grass fed pastured gelatin to a lot of his purees. This makes them more like gummy snacks, which he can grab easily, but don't look like what they actually are. And they're a lot less messy than purees. The only down side is that the gelatin seems to dull the puree's flavors, so I've had to add honey or maple syrup. Wah wah.

This puree is like a day at the spa and since it's finally SO HOT out, the combo is refreshing for everyone. Below are directions for a straight up puree, frozen pops, and gummies for those finger-food in-betweeners like M.

Also, I realize that there are kiwis in all of these photos, but I'm on the fence about kiwi. I really wanted to include it in this puree, but I initially used a kiwi that wasn't ripe enough and it make my throat tickle. Then, I waited too long and the kiwis had gone a little far south of ripe. If you're a better judge of kiwi ripeness than I am, feel free to throw in a few. I would add an extra tbsp of gelatin if you're making gummies because something in the kiwi softened the gelatin a bit in my tests. 

Cucumber, green apple, and grape puree | Me & The Moose. Lightly steamed apple, raw grapes, and raw cucumber make a refreshing puree, frozen pop, or gummies. #meandthemoose #toddlerfood #fingerfood #cucumber #grapes #apple #puree #babyfood

Cucumber, green apple, and green grape puree

2 large Granny Smith apples
30 green grapes
3-inch piece of hothouse cucumber (if using regular cucumber, remove the seeds with a spoon and use 1/2 cup chopped)

Core and chop the apple into large chunks. For a very smooth puree, skin the apple first, but otherwise, feel free to leave the skin on. Bring a few inches of water to a boil and add apples in a steamer basket. Steam for 8-10 minutes. Puree with raw grapes and cucumber in a food processor or blender. Also yummy is adding 1 Tbsp of melted coconut oil or olive oil to this puree.

Cucumber, green apple, and grape puree | Me & The Moose. Lightly steamed apple, raw grapes, and raw cucumber make a refreshing puree, frozen pop, or gummies. #meandthemoose #toddlerfood #fingerfood #cucumber #grapes #apple #puree #babyfood

For ice pops: Spoon puree directly into ice cube trays, dixie cups, or whatever vessel you prefer and freeze with popsicle sticks for several hours or overnight. Or, you can purchase these fancy pop molds.

For gummies:
2 cups of puree
3 Tbsp honey
5 Tbsp gelatin

Heat puree in a pot or sauce pan over medium low heat until just steaming (do not let the puree boil). Add honey and stir to combine. Slowly (I mean, really slowly) shake in the gelatin while stirring constantly with a whisk. Try not to let the gelatin clump. Once the gelatin has dissolved, continue stirring for a few minutes until puree thickens slightly and all clumps of gelatin have melted. Do not let the combination boil. Pour into any dish large enough to allow for just a .25- .5 inch layer of puree and gelatin mixture (I use this 9 x 9 pan). Allow to set in the fridge.
 

Cucumber, green apple, and grape puree | Me & The Moose. Lightly steamed apple, raw grapes, and raw cucumber make a refreshing puree, frozen pop, or gummies. #meandthemoose #toddlerfood #fingerfood #cucumber #grapes #apple #puree #babyfood