Easy, Vietnamese-Style Pickles

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This past week was a total whirlwind. There was a lot of meeting and eating and Megan came to visit! Last week I mentioned we’d be attending a conference for food bloggers here in Portland. It was a really great time. Some really informative presentations were given, there was lots of great food, and a lot of connections were made. I can’t think of a better town that is more fit for a food blogger conference than Portland and it didn’t hurt that it was the one I live in! I got to meet so many bloggers that I have admired for a long time–and didn’t even get to meet everyone that I would have liked to. I always leave these sorts of events feeling inspired–as cheesy as that sounds–and the Indulge Conference was no different. I plan to recap all the food and stuff we did–in case you’re ever in Portland and want some recommendations on what to eat and do.

Anyway, as part of my prep for getting things ready for my blog-pal-house-guest, I made a big batch of these easy, Vietnamese-Style pickles. They’re a super simple ratio of 1:1 rice vinegar and water with a little salt and sugar. You could pretty much pickle any vegetable, but I’ve even been thinking some summer stone fruits would be interesting as well. I opted for red onion–which turns pink!–in addition to jalapeños & shallots, and classic carrots.  I figured between all the donuts that we’d be consuming…and pie, pizza, and ice cream…we might want to have a fresh, homemade dinner in there somewhere. We used these pickles in grilled pork summer rolls packed with green leaf lettuce, fresh herbs, chopped peanuts, and ripe avocado. I also threw together my favorite peanut sauce–which I will try to remember to share, soon! These pickles are so easy and good–it’s my goal to have them on hand all summer long for summer rolling and bahn mi making. #priorities.

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Easy Vietnamese-Style Pickles

Makes 4 cups pickling liquid.  About enough for 3, 24 ounce, jars of pickles.

You can pretty much pickle any vegetable in this brine–the classic carrots and daikon are obviously great, but cucumber, any sort of onion, and peppers are also excellent.

2 cups natural (unseasoned) rice wine vinegar

2 cups water

2 tablespoons kosher salt

6-8 tablespoons granulated sugar

approximately 6 cups finely sliced or julienned vegetables–I used jalapeños & shallots, red onion, and carrots

Heat the rice wine vinegar, water, salt, and sugar (adjust to your taste) in a saucepan over high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil and stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Turn off the heat. Pack the jars with the respective vegetables and pour the hot liquid over the top to cover–leaving about 1/2 inch head-room at the top of each jar. Fit with a lid and allow to cool before storing in the refrigerator. You can eat these pickles after a few hours, but I think they are best after at least 2 days.

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Recently on Betty Crocker

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Helllloooo! Just checking in between feeding sessions, diaper changes, snippets of sleep, and endless cuddles with my main squeeze, Casper.

I have plans to share some of my experience with this whole motherhood thing and some of how things went down labor/birth-wise (which ended up being not at all what I wanted/expected)…are you all interested in any of that? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below.

Anyhoo (yeah, I just wrote “anyhoo…”), here are a few recipes that went live recently on BettyCrocker.com. Lots of delish end-of-summer fare before we transition into fall (YAY)!!

I hope summer treated you well!!

XO, Cindy

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Easy Ice Cream Strawberry Shortcake

Slow-Cooker Bacon Caprese Dip

Slow-Cooker Bacon Caprese Dip

Waffle Donuts

Waffle Donuts

Skillet Zucchini Bread with Chocolate Chip Streusel

Skillet Zucchini Bread with Chocolate Chip Streusel

Raspberry Mint Limeade

Raspberry Mint Limeade 

Texas Sheet Cake Cupcakes

Texas Sheet Cake Cupcakes

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Jalapeño Fruit Relish

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Jalapeño Fruit Relish

Cilantro-Chicken Meatball Soup

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Albondigas!

That’s what I think/say when I make anything with meatballs. It’s just a reflex and since it means “meatballs” in spanish, it works. Don’t test me on my knowledge of foreign languages, though…okay? Cause, I will surely fail. Food SO is much easier to understand.

Anyway, this soup begins with searing little, spoonable chicken meatballs flavored with lots of fresh cilantro, some sauteed onion and garlic, and a bit of minced jalapeno for heat and excitement. Once the meatballs are brown and crispy-golden we sauté some more onion and garlic, another jalapeno, plus some carrots. There’s some corn (frozen is totally acceptable) and zucchini in there for health and science. Dried New Mexico chiles ground into a powder and cumin flavor and color the broth. More cilantro is added to brighten the party and bring the soup together. This soup is hearty, but not heavy. The clear broth is light but packed with subtly spiced chile flavor and the meatballs are tender and so flavorful with the cilantro and aromatics. This soup is so warming and with a super cheesy quesadilla on the side, it’s perfection on a cold day.

Cilantro-Chicken Meatball Soup

I find whole, dried New Mexico chiles in the international aisle of my regular supermarket. They are always affordable and pack a lot of flavor. The chiles vary in spiciness, but aren’t ever really super-hot-blow-your-top way. The spice is mild to medium, but you could certainly sub in your favorite chile powder. 

Meatballs:

1-2 teaspoons olive oil

1/2 cup minced onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno (seeds and ribs removed if desired), minced

1 lb. ground chicken

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

salt/pepper

In a sauté pan heat olive oil and sauté onions, garlic, and jalapeno. Sprinkle lightly with salt and cook over medium until onions are tender and translucent  Scrape into a bowl and set aside to cool.

In a mixing bowl mix together the cooled onion/jalapeno mixture with the ground chicken, cilantro, egg, and breadcrumbs. Add salt (I used about 3/4 teaspoon) and pepper. Mix gently to combine well. Refrigerate the mixture until ready to shape and sear meatballs.

Soup:

meatballs

2 Tablespoons oil (I used grape seed, light olive or vegetable oil work too)

1/2 large onion, diced fine

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno (seeds and ribs removed if desired), sliced

4 dried New Mexico chiles

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1 carrot, sliced

1 zucchini, sliced

1 cup frozen corn kernels

6 cups low-sodium chicken stock

cilantro to garnish

salt and pepper to taste

Shape meatballs, I shoot for something that fits nicely in the spoon and can be eaten in one bite–think larger than a marble, but smaller than a cherry tomato. Heat 2 Tablespoons oil over medium high heat in the bottom of a dutch oven or soup pot. Sear the meatballs in batches until deep golden brown all around. Place seared meatballs in a dish and set aside.

Over a gas burner (you could also do this in a hot oven, it may take a few more minutes), lightly char the chiles–the idea is to make them extra dry for easier grinding and to add a touch of smokey flavor. Cool chiles and grind in a spice grinder to a medium-coarse powder. Mix chile powder with cumin and oregano in a small bowl. Set aside.

Add the onion to the remaining oil and whatever brown bits are left in the pan. Sprinkle lightly with salt and sauté, being sure to scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan, add the carrots. Cook until onions are just translucent and carrots begin to soften, add the garlic and jalapeno, cook an additional minute. Stir in the ground chile and other spices. Add the corn, zucchini, meatballs, and chicken stock. Bring the soup to a boil, taste for salt and season as needed. Reduce the soup to a simmer and cook an additional 15 minutes, until the zucchini is tender and meatballs are heated through. Serve hot with additional cilantro for garnish.