Just my luck, I get assigned with a crazy partner for my Health Promotion project.
We have to do a project on the relationship between culture and diseases in a certain country, and I picked Singapore as my country. Well, duh, I love Singapore, and I’m well-versed with its culture and food, so this should be easy-peasy, yes?
No. Because my partner is a complete weirdo.
Let me illustrate. I recently found some good online research material on the top diseases in Singapore, and I sent the link to my partner. And his response?
“Great kid, don’t get cocky.”
Eh? I was befuddled, so I replied, “Huh? What the heck are you talking about?” I added a random “lol” just to show that it was all in good humor. Then I gently reminded him to do his part of the research. He answered:
“Yes, yes, I know, always thinking with your stomach.”
What…the…hell? Anybody want to decipher what this means to me? Is there some kind of secret code hidden in there? Why the sudden talk about my stomach?! Not to mention, his email always ends with this little message in bold:
“This email and all files attached to it may contain information that is privileged, CONFIDENTIAL and exempt from disclosure under applicable law. If you are not the intended recipient, please notify me after reading the email, as the use of this information is prohibited.”
Ooh-er. Who is this guy?
His last name sounded Middle-Eastern, so I figured that he was just a foreigner whose English was not his native language. Perhaps he just misunderstood me. Then I met him personally in class. He turned out to be a pretty good-looking guy. He also spoke rapid, fluent English, with a perfect American accent. In fact, he spoke better English than me. Okay…
And then this guy proceeded to act even weirder in class. He kept asking the professor strange questions that were totally out of the point, driving both the professor and the students crazy. For example, when the professor talked about “the kids without health care” in the world, he interrupted, “Do you mean the baby goat? Because that’s called a kid too, you know.”
As every student in the class giggled and glanced at each other with eyebrows raised, he himself was totally oblivious. Actually, his face was dead serious. Meanwhile, I slunked down in my seat with a sinking heart, frantically planning ways to switch partners, because there was no way in hell I was working with Mr Loony Tunes. The project was a huge portion of the grade for my class. My goal for an A in that project is at stake, goddammit!
But things got worse. That night, we had a practice fire drill for our apartment, so all the students assembled outside…and he happened to be there, too. In fact, he was creating quite a fuss, screaming, “This is not real, guys! This is a fake fire! It’s fake, it’s fake! The real one should be at 8:30 pm, not 8:25 pm!”
Oh. My. God. This guy is a complete nutcase! Someone hand him his medication…and get me away from him!!
At least, that’s what my immediate reaction was. But later that night, I happened to be reading back my New Year prayer topics, and I was reminded that one of my prayer topic was to love others more, to be less selfish, to be optimistic, and to be more humble…including being more patient with “stupid people”.
Whoa. Okay, God. I see where you’re going with this. Fine, I’ll accept your way, but just promise me you’ll take responsibility for this.
So I changed my mind. I’ll stick with Mr Cuckoo as my project partner. He’s certainly eccentric, for sure…but hey, he seems pretty harmless. In addition, I knew nothing was a coincidence. Perhaps Mr Dingy would teach me a lesson or two. Perhaps he’s just such a genius that his mind works in peculiar ways. Point is, I have to give him a chance, and I also have to give myself a chance to prove that I can give others a chance without judging them (Hm, this should be interesting…).
Besides, who am I to judge? I’m not exactly normal either. At least, not in the kitchen, I’m not. Apparently I come up with some pretty crazy dishes. Well, here’s another crazy dish for you.
The lovely people at Krema Peanut Butter Company sent me four jars of peanut butter to sample:
Two jars of Krema peanut butter (crunchy and creamy), and two jars of Crazy Richards peanut butter (crunchy and creamy).
Did you know Krema has been producing their nut butters since 1898? Or that it’s the oldest peanut butter company in the United States? Wow. All you PB-lovers out there should worship Krema as the Peanut Butter God. I say it in a non-Heathen way, of course.
Now for you PB-snobs out there, you know very well that not all nut butters are made equal. As a purist, we think Jiff should be banned. Well, you won’t have such problem with Krema. Their ingredient? Peanuts. And that’s it. No preservatives, no sweetener, no salt, no hydrogenated oils. Just good ol’ dry-roasted peanuts, ground finely by their own unique process.
I have to say, this is one of the best peanut butter I’ve ever tasted. I like peanut butter okay, but I never liked it enough to eat it by the spoon. Well, I did for this one. I couldn’t help myself, I kept going in for more and more. It was amazing! Not just because of that freshly-roasted taste, but because of its perfect texture: not too dry, not too oily.
Look at that lovely oil floating on top:
That is the sign of a good all-natural peanut butter. DO NOT pour it off, or you’ll be pouring off all the good fats! Plus, pouring off all that glorious peanut oil will just result in a grimy, dry peanut-ty chalk.
I personally prefer chunky when it comes to peanut butter, just because I love that extra texture in there:
But creamy is awesome when it comes to dipping:
Look at that lovely, nutritious, tantalizing ooze…That’s a pretzel right there. PB & pretzel. The classic combo, right?
And that’s when I started wondering, “What if I transformed the classic combination of PB and pretzel and bananas into a savory dish? Man, I love the way my mind works sometimes. Because that’s how I came up with this fabulous dish:
PB-Pretzel Turkey Meatballs with Roasted Plantains & Zucchini “Spaghetti”
(Serves three or two hungry students)
Savory PB sauce:
- about 2/3 cup chunky Krema peanut butter
- about 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon honey
PB-Pretzel Turkey Meatballs:
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2-3 stalks celery, diced finely
- 1 large onion, diced finely (I used both red and yellow)
- savory PB sauce (recipe above)
- 1 cup crushed pretzels
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 3 large ripe plantains
- brown sugar
- 3 raw zucchinis, spiralized
- 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons almond milk
Next, the meatballs. Prep the vegetables:
Mix it into the ground turkey, with the garlic:
Pour in the PB sauce. You may not need it all, I used about 80% of mine.
Crack an egg in there:
Then mix. Meanwhile, prepare your pretzels. I used Newman’s Own Organics pretzels:
And crushed them like so:
Pour them into the turkey mixture:
Mix until the mixture is workable. If you think it is too dry, add in more PB sauce. If it is too wet, add in more pretzel crumbs. Roll them into balls, and arrange them on a greased cookie sheet pan:
Bake them in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes until cooked through:
For the roasted plantains, just slice plantains into 1/4-inch thick slices. Toss them in some oil and brown sugar if you think it is not ripe enough, then roast in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes until done.
For the zucchini “spaghetti”, heat up a pan. Mix together the mustard, honey, vinegar, and milk, and then cook the zucchini with that dressing. Cook only until the zucchini loses its raw taste; you want it as firm and fresh as possible.
Assemble all the ingredients together. Serve.
Looks are deceiving. It looks kind of like a regular spaghetti and meatball dish, doesn’t it? But dig in, and you’ll get one heck of a creative and unusual meal.
Mimi was the one who decided to use zucchini spaghetti, and it was a great choice for this dish in creating that illusion. She just bought a mandolin, so she happily provided me her spiraling services.
I chose plantains because 1) we needed a source of carbohydrate (zucchini should NOT be a main source of carbs, people!) and 2) it is the more savory version of bananas, and I thought it would complement well with the peanut buttery-ness of the meatballs.
And it did! Oh. So. Delicious.
The natural oil in the peanut butter really tenderized the meatballs, despite the leanness of the turkey meat. The flavor was not intensely peanut-buttery, but perfectly balanced with the savory meatiness of the turkey.
I also chose to add celery into the meatballs because celery goes so well with peanut butter, right? Ever heard of ants on a log? What’s missing is the raisins.
The only problem was that I couldn’t detect the pretzels as strongly as I wanted to. If you knew pretzels were in there, you would be able to spot them with the peanut butter, but otherwise, they were rather faint in the background.
I think next time, I would use regular breadcrumbs in the meatballs, but coat the meatballs with crushed pretzels so that they stay nice and visible and crunchy.
And yes, there will definitely be a next time, because this meatball was freaking fantastic. Perhaps, next time it will come drenched in a spicy peanut butter dipping sauce? Or in a peanut butter curry? The sky is the limit!
Conclusion? Don’t be turned off by the weirdness in this dish. Give it a chance. One bite, and then the second, and it might consistently surprise you at how good it actually is.
I suppose I should do the same for my project partner, Mr Barney. Hm. I should come up with a better name for him…Any ideas?
Question of the day: How do you react to “weirdos” like my partner?
And when it comes to peanut butter…creamy or crunchy?
For peanut butter, I like crunchy, but when it comes to almond butter, creamy all the way!
Oh, and random note: the title is supposed to be sung to the tune of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”