• Leyla Hur, as featured in Munaty Cooking

    Leyla Hur, as featured in Munaty Cooking

    "In Hong Kong, everything revolves around food, and it was not different in my family. In my family, each meal was truly an event and that is something I still hold close. Right after we finished one meal, Dad would discuss with us what we would have for our next meal..."

  • About Leyla

    About Leyla

    "Even from my earliest years, I liked to feed people and share my food with others. I have been privileged enough to grow up in Hong Kong, live in Malaysia, Australia, Canada, and now the United States; and I have travelled extensively throughout the world, sampling the delicacies of..."

  • Asian Beef Lettuce Cups (with Vegetarian Alternative)

    Asian Beef Lettuce Cups (with Vegetarian Alternative)

    "In Hong Kong, this is very famous and usually comes when you order Peking Duck. The restaurant will then make three dishes from the duck. You will usually get the skin (Peking Duck) which is served with..."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lean Cuisine Recall, Here's a Safe, Healthy Alternative

A couple of days ago, Nestle Prepared Foods began receiving complaints from consumers in Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, that they had found hard plastic in the Lean Cuisine frozen spaghetti and meatball dishes. As a result more than 10,000 pounds of Lean Cuisine frozen spaghetti and meatball dishes have been recalled.

This recall really got me thinking, and it really hit home to me that we have become a race of people where many rely on frozen dinners, and other microwavable convenient dishes as opposed to days-gone-by where women created meals from scratch consistently.

In my thinking about this, I remembered the time in Hong Kong when we got our very first microwave oven. For quite some time, we had heard people raving about the microwave and how convenient it truly was. So finally, my parents broke down and bought us one.

We tried it to heat left overs up, and it was amazing! Soon, Mum decided she was going to take this microwave to a whole new level and cook a meal in it!

My Dad and older sister were out of town on business, and so that meant that Mum and I were home alone for dinner.

She grabbed two chicken legs and seasoned them nicely, and then popped them on the glass plate (without anything underneath!). She put it on to cook for 15, then 25, then 35 minutes, and still this chicken was not cooking. After a combined time (opening and closing it at each time point) of almost two hours and Mum complaining that it is much faster cooking the "old fashioned way" compared to "this", we suddenly smelled a ghastly stench - there really is no other word to describe it! And began to see the microwave "cavity" filling up with a putrid smoke.

Mum rushed to stop the cooking process and opened the door to the microwave, which only let out the incredible stench that flooded into the kitchen, amongst smoke. And there, laying on the glass plate were our uncooked chicken legs, with a black tar oozing out of them.

They had cooked so long that the bones and surrounding meat had dissolved into a black tar that stuck to the glass plate like a super glue, never to be removed again. While the outside was still as raw as when Mum took them out of the fridge.

That was the end of that microwave, and Mum and I bundled ourselves in to a taxi headed for the closest restaurant.

It took Mum several more years before she would use a microwave again, in earnest. To this day, when she has something in the microwave, she never moves too far away from it "just in case" and keeps an eagle eye on the "process" inside the microwave cavity. And no item  is ever placed directly on to the glass plate without something under it... ever!

After that "disaster", we returned back to the way we had always done things, frozen meats were taken out in advance and placed on the counter on a plate to thaw slowly. Foods were cooked from scratch, and microwaveable dinners never even considered.

So, when I learned of the recall of the Lean Cuisine Spaghetti and Meatballs, it did not really phase me because it did not affect me. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought about what I would do in substitute if what I had enjoyed eating, that was part of a diet plan, would be removed from me? And so I came up with this recipe for a light alternative that can be used over pasta according to your diet plan.

Happy Cooking, Happy Eating!


1/2 lb ground turkey meat
1 large egg white, beaten slightly with 1 tsp water
1 TBSP fresh parsley, chopped finely
1 TBSP fresh basil, chopped finely
1 TBSP fresh oregano, chopped finely
1/2 TBSP fresh thyme, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, mashed
1 slice whole wheat bread, ground to coarse crumbs
Pinch of chicken powder
Salt and Pepper to taste
Olive oil for frying

1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can whole peeled tomatoes in juice, chopped coarsely
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken stock
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 fresh tomatoes, diced
6 button mushrooms, diced coarsely
2 TBSP fresh coriander, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil for cooking

Choose whole wheat spaghetti
Parmesan cheese, optional

1. In a bowl, mix together the turkey meat, egg, parsley, basil, oregano, thyme, garlic, bread crumbs, chicken powder, salt and pepper and mix together very well. Form into 2" balls and cook in a hot oiled (olive oil) frying pan, until browned on all sides. Remove from heat.

2. In a cooking pot, pour a small amount (approx 1/2 tsp) olive oil and bring to heat. Add the onions and cook until they are translucent.Add the garlic and cook until the aroma of the garlic wafts through the air.

3. Add the canned tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, carrots, celery and chicken stock to the pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce to low and simmer for 20 minutes (covered - ensure liquid remains).

4. Add the turkey balls to the sauce and cover and cook an additional 10 minutes (stirring occasionally).

5. Add salt and pepper for taste and add the mushrooms. Cook for 3-5 minutes, then add the coriander for last minute of cooking, stirring the pot to incorporate it through.

Serve over whole wheat spaghetti and 1/4 - 1/2 tsp fresh Parmesan sprinkled over top.

Serves: 4 smaller portions


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