On funks and getting rid of them in the kitchen

21 Nov

I can get in a funky mood when I don’t listen to my body.

Seriously, I’m like a 3-year-old. If I don’t eat enough, my blood sugar drops below sea level, I get mega-cranky and jittery. Not enough sleep — I can barely focus. I get anxious or tense — my back starts to scream.

That was today.

After coming home and eating half a container of hummus and pita chips in order to function like a normal human again, I started making dinner. Cooking is what soothes me. It’s like gentle rocking or listening to the ocean. It’s a comforting process because it involves rituals like chopping and measuring, and I get to create something tasty.

So, what was for dinner, you ask?

Albondigas. That’s Spanish for meatballs. Yes, meatballs.

Albondigas are the ultimate comfort food. Mexican meatballs aren’t too different from your Italian or Swedish variety. They’re little balls of meat when it comes down to it. However, it’s the seasoning and other ingredients you combine to make the meal that make them different. My mom would cook albondigas in the colder months of the year, since it’s soup-like with the veggies and rice. That’s what makes them so comforting.

I try to make a slightly healthier version with lean turkey and plenty of veggies.

I start off by cutting all my veggies, including the following:

2 diced zucchini

2 green onions

1/2 red bell pepper

2 cloves of garlic, minced

About 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro

Edit: 1 small chopped jalapeño

Unlike my photo to the right, I would suggest keeping your zucchini in a separate prep bowl. We’ll add that last to the pot. I just got ahead of myself.

Next is the meatballs. In a mixing bowl, combine about a pound of ground turkey with a salt, pepper, garlic powder and cilantro. To be completely honest, I don’t really use measuring spoons. It’s one of those arts you master after spending a lot of time in the kitchen. A LOT. So if I had to guess, I would say I used about 1/2 a teaspoon of salt, pepper and garlic powder, each. I was more generous with the cilantro, using about two tablespoons. Finally, I added a little less than 1/2 cup of raw white rice.

Now it’s time to get your hands dirty. Literally. Get your hands in there and mix everything together with your hands. Once everything is combined, start grabbing little chunks of your meat mixture and rolling them in your hands to make meatballs. I didn’t snap photos of this since, well, my hands were covered in raw turkey. My bad.

A side note: Some recipes for albondigas call for adding an egg or even breadcrumbs. Traditionally, that is how meatballs are made, but I choose to skip that part to reduce the calorie count and because you don’t really need either to hold them together. I’ll get into specifics about that in a sec.

Next, we start our soup base. You can use either 4 cups of chicken broth or 4 cups of water and some chicken bouillon. I used bouillon today since that’s what I had on hand. Either will be OK.  Add the chopped garlic, green onion, cilantro and bell pepper to this. Bring it to a rolling boil in large saucepan or small stock pot.

At this point, we can add our meatballs. Drop them in one-by-one into the boiling stock. The outside of the meatball cooks right away and helps keep it intact. So it’s really important to have things boiling in order for this to work. Got it? Good.

Once all your little meatballs are boiling in the stock, add 1/2 cup of tomato sauce or half an 8-ounce can. You can do a little more or little less, depending on your tomato love (I have lots of tomato love).

Now add a cup of raw white rice. Toss in your zucchini and jalapeño as well. It’s a becoming a flavorful pot of deliciousness!

Turn down the heat and let your abondigas simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes. When the rice is soft, your albondigas are done.

Serve the albondigas in a bowl and warm up some corn tortillas to eat with your meal. We don’t really eat flour tortillas at Casa Garcia-Ahrens. That’s not how we roll. Besides, corn tortillas are way healthier. I recommend white corn tortillas.

You can do some variations on this by adding more veggies like carrots, celery or even corn. I only had a few veggies on hand, so if you have one or the other, don’t fret. Use what you have.

And that, my friends, is how I get rid of funks and crankiness.

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