The Occasional Recipe Post: Husband’s Birthday

I don’t often do recipes because I usually cook simple meals and try to stay out of the food areas of then house.  But I recently created a birthday dinner for my husband and wanted to share the ideas I used because everything turned out so well.  People loved everything we served.

I had a cake made at a local Gluten Free Bakery, Ice It, and it was excellent!

ALL Herbs are fresh unless noted.


Turkey Sambal Bites:


These delish appetizers stared out from a Cooking Light rice bowl recipe then morphed into something I make a lot in alot of different ways. People love the appetizers and I rarely have any left over.

You can use almost any chopped meat for this, firm or smoked tofu, or shrimp.

Adjust the flavors to your taste and know these are super salty!
Prepare all your ingredients ahead

Meat mixture:
3 cloves of minced garlic
1 to 2 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1 pound of ground turkey (or other meat).
1/2 to 1 tablespoon (or more) Sambal Olek (in the “Asian” food  aisle at my local grocer or Walmart)

By Marco Almbauer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Marco Almbauer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

1 tablespoon Fish Sauce
3/4 teaspoon reduced sodium tamari or soy sauce (I use GF Tamari)
1 teaspoon sugar or honey
1/4 dry sherry
1 tablespoon oil (canola is fine)

chopped dry roast peanuts
dry unsweetened coconut
chopped fresh cilantro
minced red Fresno Chili
Srirach Mayo (3 parts mayo to 1/2 part Sriracha, or to taste)
Pomelo, or lime,  or grapefruit sections – pulp only (supremed)
Thinly sliced  raw Scallions or Chives  OR
Thinly sliced Shallots cooked in oil until brown and crisp then drained on paper towel

 As serving bases: small iceberg lettuce “cups,” belgian endive leaves, Chinese Soup Spoons.

There are two ways to do the turkey – either can be made one to two days ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Make SMALL meatballs
incorporate the meat, garlic, ginger ,sambal, fish sauce, tamari and sugar. Omit the sherry. Brush a cooking sheet with oil and bake at 350 until done.
Or Saute,
Combine the tamari, sambal, fish sauce, sherry, and sugar, keep it at hand.
Heat the oil over medium heat in a non-stick wok, frying pan, or saute pan.
Saute the garlic and ginger for 30 seconds to a minute.

Add the meat and saute until done, chopping as it cooks with heatproof spatula or suitable implement.
Add the liquid ingredients and cook for 30 seconds to a minute.  Set aside and cool.

To assemble take the base,  add a dollop of Sriracha Mayo, then an equal dollop of the meat or a meatball. Garnish with a pinch or two of each condiment.

I have also combined all of these things over rice in a bowl with hot or cold rice and a fried egg.  I serve the cold lettuce or endive chopped or in julienne on top.  I have also made a cold salad out of leftovers.

Baby Arugula & Pear Salad

baby arugula  pears alad
I served a baby arugula, pear, blue cheese and pine nut salad with a garnish of Alto Adige Speck (A northern Italian prosciutto like bacon – get thinly sliced) with a simple vinaigrette. I had 11 servings from 1 box of baby arugula (four cups?) two pears (sliced and tossed with lemon juice,  1/2 cup of toasted pine nuts, 1/4 lb of blue cheese sliced, and 11 pieces of speck.  I sprinkled  it all with fresh parsley.Each salad was pre-composed on each plate

Gnocchi & Fennel Casserole

This was the biggest hit of the evening. Not a speck remained.

I use Nuovo Pasta Gluten Free Gnocchi.  I find them at Whole Foods.  Any firm gnocchi could be substituted ( or probably good with pasta or mashed potatoes too),

Served 11

2 large fennel bulbs, washed, topped, cored and thinly sliced from the top of the bulb down. I peeled the outer leaves with a vegetable parer.

1 medium onion peeled and sliced the same way.

3 cloves of garlic thinly sliced

2 or more tablespoon olive oil

salt and pepper


5 packages of Nuovo Pasta (9 oz. package) Gnocchi (plain)

large pot of salted, boiling water.


1/4 stick of butter
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2/3 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped parsley
minced shallot and garlic
salt & pepper

1/2 stick of butter cut up,
1 cup grated Parmesan. I think Whole Foods three cheese blend  would work too.
zest of one lemon, I used an organic Meyer lemon

9 by 13 pan

2 roasting pan/jelly roll pan


Up to one day before  combine fennel, onion, olive oil, salt and pepper in pan and toss to coat evenly. Distribute on two pans shallowly.

Roast for ten  to fifteen minutes at 350F until they are softened and beginning to exude juices. Add garlic and toss. return to oven and roast until limp and starting to brown, but before the garlic browns.

Remove to an airtight container and refrigerate.

Cook Gnocchi in boiling salted water, stirring occasionally. I like to cook them a little longer than the package recommends; until they all rise to the top of the pot.
Remove and drain.

Topping: shortly before you assemble casserole:

Heat oil and melt butter in oil. Saute shallot and garlic until just soft, add salt and parsley and wilt, then add bread crumbs and toast , stirring constantly until fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside.

Assembling Casserole

Butter 9 by 13 pan. 

In a bowl mix drained gnocchi, butter, fennel and onion mixture, 2/3 of the cheese, pepper, and lemon zest. Pour into casserole and spread evenly.

Top with bread crumb mixture and remaining cheese. Cover with non-stick foil.

Preheat Oven to 350 (I put this in about 30 minutes before I removed my pork roast)

Cook 20 minutes with foil on and ten with it off until the whole thing is bubbling and the breadcrumbs are toasted Don’t let it dry out. Serve with pork roast.

Pork Roast:

Whole Foods butcher recommended 1/2 pound of raw roast per person but it was too much. I had a six and a half pound roast. Roast should be around room temperature when it goes in the oven. I would get more like 1/4 to 1/3 pound per person. And I would then add one extra 1/3 pound.

I used:


Combine in a processor or over mince and combine
1/2  cup or more  parsley
1/3 cup rosemary (leaves only)
2 teaspoons salt,
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
2 or 3 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Honey

Rub this all over roast.

Put the roast into a deep roasting pan. Add dry white wine and/or water to about an inch and keep adding liquid.  I used a full bottle of Snoqualmie Sauvignon Blanc.

Cook the roast until it is 140 to 145. Let rest 5 to 10 minutes and serve with pan juices.  I also served it with a head of garlic I had roasted earlier.