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!

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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That One-Pot Pasta Dinner That Really Works

I have a recipe for you to make tonight. Or this weekend. Or whenever you need a delicious meal in under 30 minutes and just one pot to clean up. I first saw this recipe in a recent Martha Stewart Living magazine. It caught my attention with it’s vibrant colors and delicious ingredients. But, ultimately, it was the no boil-ahead noodles part of this recipe that intrigued me. One pot meals are pure genius.

That One Pot Pasta Dinner That Really Works | gracelaced.com

I tweaked Martha’s one-pan pasta recipe and added artichokes, lemon slices, and increased the portion to suit my family. I also used canned tomatoes with juice rather than fresh tomatoes. Once all my tomatoes and basil come in in the potager, I will definitely make this with fresh picked ingredients!

That One Pot Pasta Dinner That Really Works

Ingredients

  • 24 oz. pasta
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes with juice
  • 12 oz. frozen artichoke hearts
  • 2 slices lemon with rind
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • good helping of salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Place all ingredients in a large saucepan or dutch oven. Boil mixture on high, stirring and turning pasta regularly with tongs, until pasta is al dente and water has mostly evaporated, about 15 minutes. (Once cooled, the pasta will soak up more liquid, so consider don’t worry if there’s still liquid in the pot after noodles are cooked.)
  2. The starch in the noodles combined with the rest of the ingredients, make a delicious creamy sauce. Remove lemon slices if you’d like.
  3. Serve up with some parmesan, and enjoy!

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One Pot Artichoke Pasta | gracelaced.com

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There are so many variations you could create with this recipe. Just make sure your total amount of liquid is comparable to boil the noodles, but play around with the rest of the ingredients. We really enjoyed the artichokes and the brightness of the lemon…what will you add?

Have a great weekend!!

Coming To America and The Breakfast Quesadilla

Coming To America and The Breakfast Quesadilla

My family immigrated from Taiwan to the United States when I was three years old. My parents started a life from scratch, with hardly any English under their belts. I learned quickly, but really didn’t converse fluently until the first grade. Moving to New Mexico furthered the culture shock. My parents did not have much use for tacos, pinto beans, and enchiladas. They were homesick forjiaozi, congee shops, and jian bing–an egg and flour savory pancake sprinkled with chopped green onions. It’s more like a crepe, really. A savory breakfast crepe. Troy and I ate one hot off the griddle at the base of the Great Wall of China. (That may have been the most delicious thing I ate that entire summer. I digress.)

My parents have never made a trip back to Taiwan. The closest thing to jian bing was the making of a breakfast quesadilla with flour tortillas. Chinese folks in New Mexico — they were resourceful. Cultures have common denominators in food and family. Different ingredients and flavors, but common vehicles and values around the table. Homesickness can be the start of new traditions; it’s why I make breakfast quesadillas for my family today. My mom and dad wouldn’t have added the shredded cheese or bits of ham. You may be the sort that adds swiss and mushrooms.

Reinventing themselves, their tastebuds, and dreaming new dreams for their future was not just resourceful; it was brave. I’m understanding that more and more, as we raise a family that chooses some of one culture and some of another. We are seeking to make a recipe for family that is uniquely our own. You’ve gotta make it your own before you can call it home.

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The Breakfast Quesadilla

Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 10 mins | Total time: 15 mins

Serves: 2

Ingredients

  • spray oil
  • 2-3 eggs
  • 2 large tortillas
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese
  • 1/2 cup diced ham (or slices of lunch meat if that’s all you’ve got)

Instructions

  1. Beat the eggs and set aside.
  2. Lightly spray a large non-stick pan, and heat the pan at medium heat. Pour the beaten eggs into the pan, rotating it gently so that the egg is spread evenly over the bottom of the pan.
  3. While the top of the eggs is still wet, gently place a tortilla on top, covering the entire surface of the eggs. Lightly spray the tortilla with oil and let the eggs beneath finish cooking. With a long spatula, test to see that the egg is done. When it is done, carefully flip the egg with the tortilla completely over so that the tortilla is at the bottom of the pan.
  4. Sprinkle cooked egg surface with diced ham, and then shredded cheese (in that order, so that the tortilla will stick). Place another tortilla on top of the cheese. Spray the tortilla with oil once again, and flip the quesadilla one final time so that the other side can also be grilled and golden.
  5. Let cool slightly before cutting into wedges, and enjoy!

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Goat Cheese and Apricot Stuffed Pork Chops with Apricot-Brandy Glaze

Goat Cheese and Apricot Stuffed Pork Chopse

Ever since I started making my own version of Martha’s Apricot and goat cheese stuffed chicken breasts a few years ago, I have fallen in love with any combination of goat cheese and the sweet tartness of apricot preserves and dried apricots. I’ve spread this mixture on crackers, served them as a cheese platter at fancy fundraisers, and now…remade it into the feature of a lovely stuffed pork chop recipe. Though I’m a decent cook, I don’t always write down my recipes, and not all my concoctions turn out to be worth repeating. 🙂 Not only did my culinary experiment work this time, I also wrote it down. So, here it is…Comforting enough for a weeknight, special enough for company…

Goat Cheese and Apricot Stuffed Pork Chops with Apricot-Brandy Glaze

Prep time: 20 mins | Cook time: 45 mins | Total time: 1 hour 5 mins

Ingredients

  • 6 thick pork chops
  • salt and pepper
  • Filling for pork chop:
  • 1 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 4 tbs apricot preserves
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 5 oz. herbed goat cheese
  • Apricot brandy sauce/glaze:
  • olive oil
  • 1 med onion chopped
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped dried apricots
  • 6 tbs apricot preserves
  • 2/3 cup brandy
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 6 tbs. cold water

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients for pork chop filling, and set aside. Cut a deep slit lengthwise into each pork chop, being careful to cut all the way through, but creating a deep pocket in each pork chop.
  2. Generously salt and pepper all sides and pocket of each pork chop. Fill each chop with approximately 2 Tbs. filling. Close the seam of the pocket, and hold together with a toothpick in each chop. Set aside.
  3. In a large heavy bottomed dutch oven, heat a few tablespoons oil, onions and the finely chopped apricots on medium heat. Cook until onions are translucent, and push onions and apricots to the edges of the pan. Place sealed chops into the center of the pan, adding olive oil if necessary, and sear chops on medium-high heat, turning once to brown both sides.
  4. Remove chops and set aside on a plate. Turn the heat to medium-low, and add brandy to the pan, scraping the bits from the bottom of the pan. Add broth and preserves, stirring gently to combine all ingredient. Combine cornstarch and cold water in a small bowl, and mix well. Bring sauce to a gentle simmer, and slowly pour in cornstarch mixture, stirring continually with a whisk as the sauce thickens.
  5. Finally, add chops back into the pan with the sauce. Cover with a lid and place in 350F oven for 15-20 minutes or until chop reads 145F.
  6. To serve, remove toothpick, and ladle sauce/glaze over individual pork chop. Serve extra glaze on the side.

Goat Cheese and Apricot Stuffed Pork Chops with Apricot Brandy Glaze

Combine all ingredients for pork chop filling, and set aside. Cut a deep slit lengthwise into each pork chop, being careful to cut all the way through, but creating a deep pocket in each pork chop.

Generously salt and pepper all sides and pocket of each pork chop. Fill each chop with approximately 2 Tbs. filling. Close the seam of the pocket, and hold together with a toothpick in each chop. Set aside.

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In a large heavy bottomed dutch oven, heat a few tablespoons oil, onions and the finely chopped apricots on medium heat. Cook until onions are translucent, and push onions and apricots to the edges of the pan.

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Place sealed chops into the center of the pan, adding olive oil if necessary, and sear chops on medium-high heat, turning once to brown both sides.

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Remove chops and set aside on a plate.

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Turn the heat to medium-low, and add brandy to the pan, scraping the bits from the bottom of the pan. Add broth and preserves, stirring gently to combine all ingredient. Combine cornstarch and cold water in a small bowl, and mix well. Bring sauce to a gentle simmer, and slowly pour in cornstarch mixture, stirring continually with a whisk as the sauce thickens.

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Finally, add chops back into the pan with the sauce. Cover with a lid and place in 350F oven for 15-20 minutes or until chop reads 145F.

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To serve, remove toothpick, and ladle sauce/glaze over individual pork chop. Serve extra glaze on the side.

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