A New Take on Asian Meatballs

One of the benefits I am looking forward to during my hiatus between jobs is having the time to enjoy cooking during the week.  I picked up the first Cook This Not That cookbook to start my quest to see if I can really make heart healthy delights that are truly “delightful” and don’t leave us reminiscing about how it would have tasted in the full fat and flavor days.  I tried making the Asian Chicken Meatballs as a first step.

Overall, I would rate the Asian Chicken Meatball recipe an 8 out of 10.  It was very tasty (when you made the suggested relish and sauce), it was also very adaptable to the various taste buds around my table.  The recipe had two strikes against it:  (1)  the book suggests that this will taste similar to the much less healthy Mu Shu chicken or pork dish…..uh, No; and (2) chopping the required vegetables took a least a half an hour.

When making this dish, you must also make the suggested Pickled Cucumber Salad and the Ginger-Scallion sauce.  The meatballs themselves were good, especially with the lemongrass, jalapeno and red onion flavors bursting through on every bite.  But, the Cucumber Salad and the Scallion Sauce added needed spice and depth to the recipe.  Also, the benefit of the Cucumber Salad is that it enables everyone to adjust the spice in the recipe to their individual preference.  The “sauce” in the cucumber salad is very spicy. Both the salad and the sauce also need to marinate at least an hour before serving to ensure the proper meld of the flavors.

The recipe suggests that you can use either chicken or pork for the meatballs.  I tried both and the hands-down favorite around the table was chicken.  The pork was much drier and did not showcase the flavors of the minced vegetables in the meatballs.  I also tried turkey and found it to be almost as flavorful as the chicken.

I adapted the recipe to please all of my picky eaters by reserving some of the ground meat and adding a bit of seasoning.  My 10 year old loves barbecue seasoning, so I added a half teaspoon of barbecue seasoning to a quarter pound of the ground chicken and made him his own skewer of meatballs.  For my other two more adventurous little eaters, I made each of them two meatballs without the jalapenos.  I had each of my little diners choose a color for their skewer and had them color one inch on the blunt end of their skewer with a Mr. Sharpie before I loaded the skewers with the meatballs.   This little art project before dinner got them very excited for the finished product.   Once the skewers arrived at the table, it was simple for everyone to see which skewer was meant for them.

The long preparation time for this recipe is in washing and chopping the vegetables.  If you are in a hurry, look for chopped red onion and scallions at the grocery store and jars of minced ginger and garlic.  This will leave only the jalapeno, lemongrass and cucumber to chop, which will not take long at all.

If you are serving wine with dinner, choose a crisp white wine.  If you go with Chardonnay, avoid oak and go for one aged in stainless steel.  I recommend a sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio.  We had the 2010 Veritas Sauvignon Blanc Reserve (about $25 if you are lucky enough to find it in your local wine store).

Don’t set the table salivating for mu shu chicken.  Instead, get your taste buds prepared for a fresh, flavorful chinese dish that has a flavor all its own.  You can also rejoice in the fact that if you stick to about 3 meatballs (approximately a quarter pound of pre-cooked ground chicken) you will enjoy dinner for about 300 calories (before the glass of wine). With this in mind, you’re in for a real treat.

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Who is Felicia?

[Credit]When I read an article or a blog, before I can possibly care what the author has to say, I want to know WHO they are — what’s shaping their opinion and are there any parallels to my own life, priorities and beliefs that would make their opinions relevant.  The “quick bio” blurb from a resume or a right rail author’s snapshot really doesn’t do it for me.  So, with that in mind, reader, I want to share with you WHO I am, WHAT I care about, and hopefully, you’ll understand WHY you care what I have to say.

Education has always been one of the pillars of my life.  I have been planning for my own, pursuing it, promoting it, sharing it since I was six.  Now, I have the privilege of participating in my own children’s education.  This is a subject about which I am passionate, informed and excited to discuss.   As far as my own education goes, I went to a very small, rural public elementary and high school in Northwest Pennsylvania, then on to the University of Virginia for a Bachelors in English, then on to Duke University Law School for a JD.  I believe in public education, but also recognize its challenges; and I have seen the benefit and challenges of private education, as well.   These themes will be recurrent in my posts about the decisions my husband and I make about our own children’s education.

My career path has been varied and interesting, and unusual.  After graduating from UVA, I pursued my life long dream of moving to California.  I landed a job in sales with an IBM/Kodak joint venture.  The two best things about that job were the travel throughout the West Coast that it provided, and its life’s lesson that I really didn’t want to be in Sales.  From that job, I applied to Law School, and headed back East to Duke Law School.

I graduated from Law School and dutifully followed the designated career path to a job with a firm in the San Francisco Bay Area.  I loved my fellow associates, but the work? Not so much.  I made it through two years. I thought maybe it was the firm, or the commute, so I moved to a firm in San Francisco.  The view was fabulous.  My office looked out on the Bay Bridge and Angel Island.  However, I soon realized that I spent five days a week wishing it was the other two.  Not a good way to live.  I considered Culinary School or maybe the Peace Corps.  Then, I met the Man that I would eventually marry and he introduced me to the Dot Com world.  This was San Francisco in the mid-90s and THAT was a great place to be.

I wrote a few user manuals, then took a Project Management role that turned into a Management role with Charles Schwab.  I knew I had found a career that I enjoyed MUCH more than I did practicing Law.   I have been a technology manager for internet startups (BarterTrust and CarClub.com), a mainframe technology manager at Airline Tariff Publishing Company and for the last five years a Program Director for Aol.

While at Aol. I worked on the team that integrated the Blogsmith platform into Aol.   — the birth of blogging at Aol.  Then I had the privilege of working with the Weblogs team.  If there is such a thing as career Utopia, it was working on the Weblogs team.  Our team was all virtual — working each day from New York, Virginia, Florida, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Iowa…..you get the picture.  I successfully managed our virtual team to produce many world class blog experiences on our sites:  Autoblog, Engadget, TUAW, Switched, Gadling.  I am a huge proponent of virtual teams, tele-commuting and successfully incorporating work and life — not just trying to balanced the two without falling off the see-saw.

Why does any of this matter in terms of WHO I am?  It gives me a unique perspective of appreciating the importance of higher education and the value of being brave enough to recognize when the prescribed career path is NOT for you.  My life has been a unique combination of following the rules and then bending them in the pursuit of happiness.  I’ve also seen both ends of the technology spectrum, from mainframe to the cutting edge of the web world and social media.  I love being a manager, influencing the careers of my team, and helping everyone make the most of who and what they want to be.

Enough about just me, though, and on to where I am in 2011.

My husband and I had our first son in September of 2000 and quickly realized that having 2 careers and a baby in a City 3500 miles from the my mid-70 year old parents was not going to provide the kind of family life we envisioned.  So, in 2001, my husband and I moved from San Francisco to Northern Virginia.

Since arriving in Northern Virginia, we have added two more beautiful children to our family — a daughter in 2003 and a son in 2007.  My parents are still very much alive, though dealing with a myriad of health issues.  So now, I juggle a family with 2 careers, 3 very active children and 2 octogenarians that live 100 miles away and refuse to move out of their antebellum house.

Why does this matter in terms of WHO I am?  I will have lots of posts with advice on how to incorporate school, athletics and other activities into the lives of families.  Our 10 year old is an accomplished swimmer on a year round swim team, a good basketball player and a good student.  Our 7 year old daughter is a competitive gymnast, on a summer swim team, a good basketball player and an avid hip hopper, as well as a good student.   Our 3 year old is a budding soccer star (who would rather kick a ball than eat), and a great little swimmer.  I have lots of well-earned opinions on how to juggle academics and athletics, but this, too, is a subject that I love to discuss.

And, what do I love to do in my free time?   Cook and drink wine!

I have enjoyed feeding our friends and family since I can remember.   My first dish that I cooked was lasagna for my boyfriend when I was in high school and he was in college. His friends loved the lasagna and I fell in love with the joy of seeing people enjoy eating what I had made.   Living in San Francisco meant having culinary inspiration every day.  My fondest memories are of our dear friends in San Francisco around my dinner table enjoying our latest finds from Napa and Sonoma Valley and my latest adventures in the kitchen.

As a Mom and forty-something woman, I focus on trying to make those culinary pleasures more heart healthy, but still to-die-for delicious, oh yes — and so that they will appeal to the ENTIRE family.  Now, this is a CHALLENGE.  I have one picky eater that will not eat red meat, or much of anything with flavor (unless its sugar) and one little darling that eats everything from Sushi to lamb and adores broccoli…and one somewhere in the middle.  My culinary posts will have lots of tips on making a meal that will appeal to the discriminating pallet and the immature one — without making 2 separate meals.

My husband I fell in love with each other wine during many many trips to Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Amador when we lived in San Francisco.  We shipped 100 cases of the best of the West when we moved in 2001.  We thought we had sadly left all the good winemakers behind.  However, the Virginia wine industry has matured in the 10 years that we have been here, and we now have some local favorites and once again enjoy afternoons of wine tasting in the Shenandoah Valley.  My husband is a Systems Architect by day and a wine distributor for one winery in Afton, Virginia by night and weekend.  We would both eventually love to be in the wine industry full time, and there is no way to get that dream started without jumping in with both feet.

So, now you know quite a bit about me and you’ll learn more as we go……

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