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!

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,

Thank you for joining me here! Would you like posts to come directly to your inbox? I invite you to subscribe to GraceLaced by email!

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.

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.

_DSC0083

_DSC0081

_DSC0084

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!

_DSC0080

Hot and Sour Soup for a Cold and Blustery Night

In honor of Chinese New Year today, I thought I’d post my recipe for Hot and Sour Soup.

As a staple in all Chinese restaurants and homes, there are infinite ways to prepare this satisfying tradition. My parents never used recipes, or wrote anything down while they cooked. That explains a lot about me, I know. I grew up knowing this soup by taste, by smell, by texture, and have always reproduced it in my kitchen accordingly. It was not until my friend Susan recently requested a cooking lesson, that I actually recorded (approximate) measurements for the ingredients. Don’t be deterred by the ingredients–a visit to your Asian market will lay your fears to rest. It’s so simple to make, you may never stop for take-out again. Just thank Susan.

DSC_0024

  • 1/4 c. dried black fungus (rinsed and reconstituted in warm water)
  • handful fresh enoki mushrooms (cut off root ends and separate from each other or use one can, drained)
  • 3 quarts water
  • 3 T. chicken boullion
  • 1 can bamboo strips
  • 1/2 can baby corn pieces
  • 3 T. soy sauce
  • 1 t. sesame oil
  • 1/2 c. white vinegar
  • 1 pkg. medium-firm tofu, cut in 1/4 in strips (will use about 3/4 pkg.)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 rounded T. cornstarch in 1/3 c. water
  • 1 T. white pepper
  • 1/2 T. sugar
  • 1 t. chili garlic sauce
  • 1/4 c. marinated chicken or pork, cut into tiny strips (marinate strips in soy, pepper, a dash of sugar, and a drip of sesame oil overnight)
  • scallions for garnish

Begin by prepping the meat, by cutting into tiny strips, and marinating as directed. Cover in dish, and refrigerate overnight. In a large pot, bring first nine ingredients to a gentle boil. Carefully add the tofu. When soup is at a rolling boil, slowly stir in beaten eggs into the center of pot in a steady stream. Mix cornstarch mixture, and add to soup. Add pepper, sugar, and chili garlic sauce. Taste, and when all flavors are adjusted, add the pre-marinated chicken strips. If you’ve cut your meat up thin enough, this should only take a few minutes at a simmer. You don’t want to toughen the meat. Turn off heat when meat is cooked through. Serve garnished with diced scallions.

Chinese Beef and Carrot Noodles Soup

Chicken noodle soup, chicken pot pie, mashed potatoes, mac n’ cheese. All these come to mind when searching for the perfect comfort food…in America. It’s all what was comforting to you as a child, I suppose. Consequently, cuisines that top my comfort menu would include: rice porridge with preserved duck egg, egg and oyster omelettes, jiaozi, and Chinese beef and carrots stew. Somewhere between my middle school social crises and current homeschooling-parenting-ministering-houseworking-crafting-wifery fatigue, I’ve altered this childhood meal to reflect my love for Vietnamese cuisine as well. The best way to learn how to make this dish is to come over for an afternoon visit of simmering, savoring, and soaking in the warming vapors of ginger, star anise, cinnamon, and cloves….comfort. But, if you can’t make it by, here are the basics…roughly:

  • 1 pound beef stewmeat, cubed
  • 1 pound carrots, cut into 2 inch chunks
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/8 cup fish sauce, or nam pla
  • 4 cups beef broth 1 huge chunk of ginger, cut into
  • 1/2 inch pieces
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 4-5 whole cloves 4-5 whole pieces of star anise
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar, to taste
  • Chinese wide flour noodles, or Vietnamese rice noodles if you prefer
  • sesame oil, chopped fresh cilantro, sriracha hot sauce for garnish

*Update: I now enjoy putting all the ingredients minus the carrots, in a slow cooker for 4 hours on  high, then four hours on low. I add the carrots at the halfway point. I’m finding that large pieces of stewmeat and all day in the crockpot makes for super tender stew. (I also often skip the beef broth and fill up the pot with water and add a tsp or so of Better Thank Bouillon.) 

Throw the beef, soy sauce, and broth into heavy stockpot. Cook on med-high until meat is tender, about 30-40 minutes. Add all other ingredients, except for brown sugar, plus enough water to cover beef and carrots and still have broth. Cook on medium-low heat until carrots are tender, another 30-40 minutes. Add sugar if desired, to taste. When ready to serve, remove spices and ginger. Cook noodles as instructed. Ladle stew over cooked noodles, and garnish if desired.