Easiest Asian Cold Summer Noodles + Peanut Sauce

Summer is already coming to an end for us here, and I’m reluctantly squeezing in every kind of summer meal I can before the frenzy of back-to-school kicks in. The funny thing about summer is that I have more time…but sometimes less motivation…to get my act together to prepare a meal.

Thankfully, my favorite go-to for summer nights happens to be recipe that can be adapted to anything you have on hand. Substitute spaghetti noodles for soba noodles. Sub almond butter for peanut butter. Sub leftover rotisserie chicken for grilled salmon. Use coleslaw mix instead of English cucumbers. It all works. And on those nights when a last minute dinner party comes together…you can be sure to feed a crowd. Make your own, or prepared ahead…you can’t go wrong with Asian-inspired cold noodles with peanut sauce. 

Ingredient recommendations:

  • Noodles: soba noodles (or spaghetti noodles), cook as directed
  • Protein: grilled fish, shredded leftover rotisserie chicken, grilled shrimp
  • Veggies: shredded carrots, julienned cucumbers, thinly sliced celery, green onions, cilantro, bean sprouts, broccoli or cole slaw, grilled veggies like sweet potatoes (my favorite lately is poke holes in sweet potato, and microwave for a few minutes until tender, then slice into wedges, toss in olive oil, coarse salt and pepper, lime juice, and cayenne pepper…then grill. It’s perfect for vegetarian alternative to meat or to make this meal a bit more substantial.)
  • Condiments: peanut/almond sauce, extra soy or rice wine vinegar, sesame seeds, sriracha or other hot sauce, fish sauce, fresh limes

Ingredients for Peanut Sauce:

(makes enough for approx. 6-8 servings…and honestly, I usually wing it and taste as I go, but I really needed to have something concrete for you all!)

  • 1/2 cup almond butter or peanut butter (I’ve even used powdered peanut butter too!)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • Drizzle of sesame oil 
  • A squirt of sriracha hot sauce if you like it spicy

…add all to a pint size mason jar with lid and shake vigorously. Stir until smooth if needed, and adjust ingredients for taste and consistency. 

  

Set up your meal as a build-your-own buffet or pre-toss your noodles and ingredients! 

Enjoy, friends! Let me know if you try it!

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Gluten Free Pasta Carbonara

My family isn’t gluten free, but most of our friends are. For the love of our friends and love of hospitality, I’ve been collecting meal ideas to serve a large crowd that please both gluten and non-gluten eaters. Being Chinese, making gluten free meals is fairly simple when cooking Asian, but Italian can be trickier. 

This version of pasta carbonara does the best job of pleasing one and all. Of course, regular pasta works just as well…but I just had to record what I did for the gluten free version because there was no compromise on taste!

  • 2 16 oz. packages of brown rice penne pasta from Trader Joe’s
  • 1 lb. bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups shredded parmesan
  • 3 cups thawed/warmed frozen peas

Cook the pasta to al dente according to package instructions. 

Cook bacon in a heavy bottom pan or cast iron skillet until bacon is crisp. Drain and set aside with about 1 tbs. bacon grease left in pan. Add diced onion and minced garlic to the bacon grease, and sauté until onions translucent and carmelized. Set aside.

Meanwhile, beat eggs in a large bowl. Add whipping cream, and beat together. 

When pasta is done, drain and place in large serving/mixing bowl. Drizzle the egg/cream mixture to hot pasta immediately, and mix well until fully incorporated. Add sautéed onion mixture and cooked bacon to pasta mixture. Incorporate peas and shredded parmesan, salt and pepper to taste, and mix well. 

Add ins: Red pepper flakes, marinated grilled chicken, grilled eggplant or portbello mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, marinated artichokes…!

Nice enough for company, easy enough for a weekday supper with family. Enjoy!

Grapefruit Brûlée (Broiled Grapefruit)

Chill grapefruit. Line a baking sheet with foil.

Cut and segment grapefruit. Slice a small piece off of bottom rind so that each half sits flat on baking sheet.

Sprinkle a tablespoon raw sugar or light brown sugar onto cut and segmented grapefruit.

Broil on high for 5 min, and top with whipped cream and sprinkle of cinnamon. 

Enjoy! 

Easiest Cobbler Ever

Our freezer went out yesterday and I found myself with a 5 lb. bag of quickly thawing blueberries. Nothing could be easier than this old standby recipe for a quick cobbler. For all of us who might have an unexpected guest for dinner, a friend to take a dinner to, or a freezer that doesn’t hold up….keep this recipe handy. It won’t disappoint.

  • 1/2 stick butter

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

  • 3/4 cup sugar

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 3/4 cup milk

  • 16 oz. bag frozen fruit: peaches, blueberries, blackberries, etc.

  • extra sugar for sprinkling

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Put butter in a baking dish, 8×8 is ideal, or rectangle pan will work too. Set in oven to melt. When butter has melted, take pan out of the oven.

Whisk flour, 3/4 cup of sugar, baking powder and salt in a big bowl. Add milk and whisk to form a smooth batter. Pour batter into pan, then sprinkle fruit over batter. Sprinkle with a little sugar on top, about a tablespoon.

Bake until batter browns and fruit is bubbling, 50 to 60 minutes, less if pan is bigger. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream! 

Perfectly Pan-fried Potstickers and Quick and Easy Asian Soup Ideas

Dear mom who is tired of eating microwaved frozen chicken nuggets off of her kid’s plate and calling it lunch, I feel your pain.

I have tried eating them with honey and hot sauce, but it really just doesn’t cut it. Without a nourishing and satisfying lunch, I inevitably snack all afternoon on things that add guilt to the cycle of over-indulging my “needs” and under-indulging my needs. For the mom that loves to go out for lunch with a girlfriend, but is in a current season where that is near impossible…this post is for you.

This is a super simple post about how I make Asian cafe quality lunches for myself or a friend (or even for my kids) when I’m craving something other than a sandwich…and when chicken nuggets just won’t do. 

1) Always keep some frozen potstickers in the freezer. (I like Trader Joe’s chicken potstickers, and Ling Lings at Costco.)

Here’s how to have quick and perfectly pan-fried potstickers:

  • Heat a tablespoon oil in a nonstick skillet .
  • Dip the “bottoms” of each potsticker in the oil and place around the entire skillet bottoms down. (Obviously pick a skillet that matches the quantity of potstickers you care to fix.)
  • Heat the pan up to medium-high, and when the potstickers begin sizzling, add enough water to cover 3/4 of the way up the potstickers in pan.
  • Cover with a tight fitting lid.
  • Cook for 5 minutes or until tops of potstickers are thoroughly steamed and cooked through. Then take lid off and let the water cook off.
  • When water cooks off fully, let the bottoms brown, then turn off heat.
  • Gently loosen edges of potstickers on the outer edge.
  • Place large plate over skillet like a lid. Flip entire pan over with plate secured with your hand, and potstickers should come out bottoms up in your plate, ready to serve!

2) Keep soup starters on hand for individual bowls of Asian soups:

  • Miso soup packets from Trader Joe’s
  • Dry Thai Chili Paste from Trader Joe’s (use a few teaspoons in boiling water to taste)
  • Better Than Boullion- chicken, beef, vegetable

3) Favorite add ins to soups:

  • Frozen wontons (chicken-cilantro ones from Trader Joe’s are great)
  • Leftover panfried potstickers
  • tofu
  • bean sprouts
  • handful fresh spinach
  • cilantro, thai basil, lime
  • rice noodles, bean starch vermicelli, udon noodles
  • frozen shrimp (keep a bag in freezer just for this, and it will last you forever, but make ever bowl special)
  • canned tuna

Not every day will call for a little something special or a little extra effort, but you and I both know: sometimes a soothing meal and mid-day break does so much for the soul.

Hope these ideas help!

Because of grace,

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Whole Wheat Chinese Almond Cookies

Today is Chinese New Year‘s Eve. With no Chinese family members nearby, I’ve not alway been diligent to include traditional Chinese celebrations within our family culture. All Chinese holidays are strongly based on extended family and family tradition…and for me, out here in the Southwest with no local immediate or extended Chinese family, sometimes it’s not been worth the effort, or the trip to the local Asian market on the other end of town. Nevertheless, I did, this year. I took my five oldest boys and we came home with all this. Any guesses as to what we are having for dinner? 

The older my kids get, the more I am valuing the preservation and the passing on of our family’s version of my Chinese heritage. It’s a privilege to speak Mandarin, to have grown up within two cultures, and to know a thing or two about making a mean stirfry. 

Unlike traditional Chinese New Year celebrations, my house has not been cleaned from stem to stern–in fact, I am recovering from two of the most chaotic and messy weeks we’ve had recently around here. I’m not cooking the traditional “lucky” foods, but am opting for the fun experience of hot pot. There will be red envelopes, hot tea, some paper lanterns, and homemade almond cookies. 

Here’s my disclaimer: I’m fully Chinese, but I did not grow up making almond cookies…which is to say, I only ate almond cookies at Chinese restaurants, and most of the time, they were underwhelming at best. However, I love the idea of an almond cookie and I’m strongly motivated to involve my kids in any cooking process. 

And so, I put together the simplest Chinese almond cookie recipe I could muster that doesn’t include almond flour or almond meal and doesn’t require lard.

Why?  Well, mostly because I don’t usually have those ingredients on hand, andkeeping it simple is where I’m at these days. Oh, and I’ve also chosen to make these cookies with whole wheat flour…again, because that’s what I use at home and because I’d like to have at least one redeeming quality to a buttery cookie.

These are not crunchy or yellow. They are slightly chewy and golden brown. I don’t blanch my almonds or sliver them. I keep it simple, folks. And, lastly…this might be one of my favorite cookies to make with the littlest littles.

Because, after all, they are the reason I’m making the effort to celebrate the Year of the Horse.

Whole Wheat Chinese Almond Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup, or about 36 raw almonds
  • 1 egg, beaten

  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Cream together butter and sugar in a large bowl. Beat in egg and almond extract. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt, and add dry ingredients to the creamed ingredients.
  3. Roll into 1-in. balls. Place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten with the bottom of a measuring cup. Gently press one almond into the center of each cookie.
  4. Beat the other egg in a small bowl, and brush over entire tops of cookies. Bake at 325° for 15-20 minutes or until edges and bottoms are golden brown. Makes about 3 dozen.