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
- 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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My parents, who live in California, were at my house for a few short days last week before we all drove up to Colorado to visit my brother and his family. I loved having them in my home. They served me generously, washing dishes, changing diapers, and stepping in to help anywhere and everywhere more hands were needed. I was so grateful for them…yes, for their help, but more so for the ways in which God is restoring the lost years of strife and dysfunction and giving us now grace-covering time with one another.
One of the blessings of the short visit was discovering that my dad, who I call “Baba,” is a master granola maker. Who knew?!? His granola is fantastic! My parents tell me they alternate between eating oatmeal one morning and homemade granola the next. Because we only see one another once a year, I really don’t get to know these little details about their daily lives.
My parents live so simply. I love that about them. They are also generous…incredibly frugal themselves, but extravagant with their energy, time, and resources with those they love. So naturally, finding that I loved his granola, my dad offered to make me a big batch, recalling his recipe from memory.
He was kind enough to let me share it with all of you…
Baba’s Awesome Granola
- 8 cups oatmeal
- 2 cups sliced almonds
- 2 cups dried cranberries
- 1 cup shredded coconut
- 4 egg whites
- 2 tablespoons vanilla
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon powder
- 10 tablespoons olive oil (I used coconut oil)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups honey
- Optional: chia seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, etc.
- Set oven temp to 350F.
- Mix all dried ingredients together.
- In another bowl, lightly beat egg whites, vanilla, cinnamon powder, oil, and salt. Add to the dried ingredients and mix thoroughly.
- Add honey to the mixture and combine thoroughly again.
- Line a deep-edged cooke sheet with parchment paper. Pour the granola mixture evenly across the cookie sheet, carefully pressing it down firmly from edge to edge.
- Bake for 20 min. or until edge is golden brown. Let cool. Break apart and store in an airtight container.
The perpetual snack dilemma of summertime.Sigh. All the kids are home…all the time. At my house, that means the boys are constantly hankering for a snack. Here’s what we are doing this summer to make snacking fun and unburdensome, while training the kids to take over in the kitchen!
1. Make a menu. Choose healthy snacks that can be easily made with ingredients on hand. Without a menu, it is easy to get sucked into buying pre-packed snacks, chocked full of preservatives and sugar. Because it is my personal style of cooking, I find it valuable to teach the kids to make something great with what’s available. (It doesn’t have to be fancy!)
2. Set a time for snacks every afternoon (or morning and afternoon) so there’s not constant inquiry about snacking. Everyone knows when snacktime will be, and eats enough at mealtime to adjust accordingly.
3. Rotate snacks on a summer calendar so that everyone can see what’s on the menu, and there is no debate about what to have each day.
4. Take turns making or preparing snacks each day. Kids love to cook! Simple snacks are a great way for them to take ownership of what they are serving up to the entire family!
Here are some snack menu ideas from our kitchen…
-ants on a log
-carrots sticks in cucumber cups
-fruit skewers with yogurt
-mini nachos (chips/beans/cheese/homemade blender salsa)
-frozen juice popsicles
-apples and peanut butter cups (they sell little containers for cheap at Walmart)
-sliced bananas with cinnamon and honey
-cream cheese and shredded carrots pinwheels
What are some easy go-to snacks your family enjoys? How do you manage summertime snacking?
Right around this time each year, I get a yearning for nightly grilling. Summer nights sound so appealing already. Do you get this way too?
The Preacher’s dad, my dear father-in-law, gifted us his specially formulated blackening spice mix at Christmastime. A dusting of this fragrant mixture transforms fish and meats alike. A ubiquitous, modest chicken breast starts tasting a bit like something served up at the neighborhood bistro when “blackened” on the grill, and served over a crisp cobb salad. And because he’s a generous kind of guy, Dad is sharing his recipe with all you lovelies today…enjoy!
Cajun Dust Blackening Spice Mix
- 4 tablespoons paprika
- 3 tablespoons black pepper, coarsely ground
- 3 tablespoons basil, dried (flakes)
- 3 tablespoons garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons onion powder
- 2 tablespoons oregano, dried (flakes)
- 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons white pepper
- 2 tablespoons thyme, dried (flakes)
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, coarsely ground
- 1/4 teaspoon sage
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Combine all ingredients. Store in airtight container. Makes approx. 1.5 cups of cajun dust.
Rub on meat. Let stand for 15 to 30 minutes before cooking.
When it comes to breakfast, I think I could be a Spaniard.
Several years ago, The Preacher had the opportunity to visit good friends in Spain. Of all the things he shared with me after returning home from the trip, THIS delicious breakfast from the Catalan region of Spain was the first. Paired with a cup of cafe con leche, pan con tomate offers a bit of comfort for the ol’ wanderlust that still beats in this heart.
Pan Con Tomate (Crusty Bread with Tomato)
- 1 loaf of rustic bread
- fresh tomatoes, pureed
- fresh cloves of garlic, peeled
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
Slice the rustic bread to fit your toaster. (You can also use a broiler, toaster oven, or even a grill.)
Rub a clove of garlic over the crusty toasted bread.
Drizzle bread with a bit of olive oil.
Spread a spoonful of pureed fresh tomatoes on top of your bread. Sprinkle freshly cracked pepper and salt to taste.
I’ve always wanted to make homemade granola bars…and I finally did. I’m not sure if I’ll ever go back to store-bought. There are so many variations, but this is what we came up with for our family. I loved using the coconut oil, but you can also substitute with canola. The result was chewy, healthy, delicious granola bars the entire family loved! Let me know if you try them!
- 4 cups oats
- 1 1/2 cups crisp rice cereal
- 2 T. wheat bran
- 2 T. flax meal
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 3/4 cup coconut oil
- 3/4 cup honey
- 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
- 3/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup sliced almonds
Mix until everything is moistened and fully incorporated. Press into a parchment lined 9×9 square baking pan. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes, or until top is lightly golden brown.
Let cool completely. (as in several hours or overnight!)
When completely cooled, turn pan over onto a cutting board, remove parchment, and carefully cut into 1×2 in” bars. I got 24 bars from this recipe.
If desired, wrap individual bars in wax paper, seal with a sticker or tape, and store in a airtight container.
It’s Friday. Make grilled Nutella and banana sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, and or dinner. No one (under 10 years of age) will complain!
Have a blessed weekend, friends! There is much sweetness to savor in life…