Using My Shrinking Pandemic Pantry to Create Fast Bling Cuisine!

Main Course / May 24, 2021
I present to you another gorgeous meal with a back story. And then I will provide the recipe for my Vietnamese Turkey Meatballs Platter. Yes, you can scroll down to that section now, but reading what leads up to my recipes is fun, yes?

So, this time last year, my freezer held enough food to get us through 4 months of lock-down. None of us quite knew if the food delivery chain would be compromised, so we really stocked up. I also remember losing power for three days during a spring storm and the one thing we guarded like newborn puppies was the food in our freezer. Thank goodness for generators.

Fast forward a year later and even though we’ve all learned there is no way to be sure of the future, my pantry has shrunk down from a ‘Def-Con 5’ food supply, to being moderately ready for the arrival of neighbors. All this ruminating is to let you know I found a package of frozen ground turkey at the bottom of one compartment that was nearing its end-life, as well as having a bit of fresh food in the fridge that just needed to be used … and it was closing in on dinner time.

This scenario sets the stage for most of my meals:  I look in the pantry and fridge for what’s on hand and create from there. I pride myself on posting photos and recipes that appear as though they took a ton of time and brain power, but this isn’t the reality in the “I Feel Like Cooking” theater. As you all know I work fairly quickly because I’m just a mad scientist with an apron, with a passion for nourishing, and I love beautiful food.

Okay. Now it’s time for the recipe. Isn’t this just a gorgeous looking meatball? And it’s super healthy.

So to begin with, ground turkey is not something you serve without adding additional ingredients to improve it. I chose powerful Asian flavors, and accent with heat, and used grated carrots for moisture. Then by adding preserved lemon and chili flakes to low fat plain Greek yogurt, I had a great sauce to serve, and a meal that featured cool, spicy, sweet, crunchy, and salty.

I find that baking my meatballs is just a great time-saver, even though the pan does a beautiful job at browning. Since these meatballs were on the platter with other items, I didn’t need a caramelized exterior. Yay, because I also avoided cleaning my stove top. Win-win. 20+ minutes in the oven and then serve over slathered the yogurt … it just got more beautiful from there when I added fresh jalapenos, garden tomatoes, cucumbers that I scored so that the edges were pretty, and tons of cilantro. I finished with pretty, red onion slices and some mint leaves, and everyone was happy!

Not that I advocate you wait until all your food has been around awhile before using it, but this is further proof that putting bling into your cuisine isn’t complicated or time consuming.

Now for a long walk to eliminate the pandemic middle I’ve grown. Ugh. Please pass me the cucumbers again.

Vietnamese Turkey Meatballs ​with a Lemon Chili Yogurt Sauce


½ C grated carrots
1 T finely chopped mint
1 lb. ground chicken
2 t fresh grated ginger
½ t Singapore Seasoning (Penzeys)
1 large egg
¼ C chopped cilantro
1/3 C chopped Vidalia or other sweet onion
1 heaping T chopped fresh garlic
1 t sesame oil
1 t kosher salt and ½ t black pepper
2 T Italian breadcrumbs
2 T olive oil to grease the baking dish

10 oz. plain Greek yogurt
¼ C chopped preserved lemon rinds (or zest of one lemon and 1 T lemon juice)
½ t kosher salt and ¼ t black pepper
1 – 2 t crushed red pepper flakes

1 C sliced jalapeño, 1 small cucumber sliced, 3 Roma tomatoes cut in eighths, 6 – 8 slices red onion, and a sprinkling of cilantro.


Combine all meatball ingredients from carrots to breadcrumbs, and form into about 14 – 16 meatballs. Grease a small glass baking dish with the 2 T oil, and arrange meatballs just touching but not crowded. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 20 -23 minutes or until bubbling and cooked through. (Make sure meatballs are at room temperature before baking for the best result.)

Combine yogurt with preserved lemon, salt and pepper, and chili flakes and blend well.

To serve, slather the yogurt sauce on the bottom of a large platter. Top with the cooked meatballs. Then begin to arrange the other ingredients around and atop the meatballs and yogurt.

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Let's think about food preparation as art, and flavors as adventurous stories. Say ‘goodbye’ to safe sequences, or copycat flavors, and use your senses to curate the perfect meal. My recipes help your kitchen come to life as I share anecdotes about food chemistry, and fun shortcuts that conquer menu-mediocrity. my cooking style is one that combines everyday ingredients into sensuous layers that wake up the bored palate as I reveal easy-to-understand tips, tricks, and hacks so everyone can prepare and serve Bling Cuisine with confidence and joy!


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