Peanutty Soba Noodles

rainbowI’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I always have a hard time bringing myself to buy some prepared foods if I know I can make it at home less expensively. If it’s the end of the week and the cupboards are bare, I sometimes go to a local supermarket to pick up something for lunch. This isn’t your usual IGA, it’s a high-end supermarket with a wonderful deli that carries lots of specialty cheeses, meats, and salads. And high-end equals high prices.

In the deli case, you can find small containers of egg, ham, and turkey salads, some with prices that range more than $7 a pound. They also make other specialty noodle salads: Thai, sesame, and peanut, with equally high prices. You get the idea, ridiculously expensive, since you can make a batch of egg salad or peanut noodles for a crowd for half the cost of one lunch.

This is my version of peanut noodles, one that is relatively inexpensive and which doesn’t require refrigeration immediately if you take it to a picnic. (Please note, this should be refrigerated at some point!) I made it for a picnic dinner a few weeks ago, and the Eater of the House took one bite and declared it delicious. This can be served as a meatless entrée or side dish, or add some tofu or grilled chicken to it to bulk it up. I wanted more veggies than noodles, but feel free to add more (or less) of either or both if you like. Experiment with other vegetables, maybe the crunch of kohlrabi? Or substitute another bean for the edamame. If you are eating gluten-free, look for gluten-free soba noodles (they are out there) or substitute rice noodles.

noodle saladPeanutty Soba Noodles

Baby carrots are perfect for making match-stick pieces! You can get shelled edamame in the freezer section; just put in a bowl and defrost for a little while. They thaw fairly quickly. 

8 oz. soba noodles, cooked and drained
1 TBS canola oil
1 c. shelled edamame
2 c. cucumber, peeled, halved, and seeded, sliced into half-moons
1 c. carrots, sliced into match sticks
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
Chopped scallions, a couple tablespoons

Peanut Sauce
¼ c. peanut butter (preferably chunky)
2 TBS rice wine vinegar
2+ TBS hot water
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. soy sauce or tamari
Sriracha sauce, to taste (optional)

1. Cook the soba noodles according to the directions. Rinse, add to a large mixing bowl, and toss with the canola oil.

2. Add the edamame, cucumber, carrots, and red pepper and toss.

3. In a small bowl, add all the ingredients for the peanut sauce and whisk. You want this fairly thin, add more hot water until you get the consistency you like.

4. Add half of the sauce to the noodles and veggies. Toss together and top with the scallions.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: David Sedaris

sedarisOne of my favorite writers is David Sedaris. While he normally doesn’t write about food and dining, he was recently interviewed on the NPR show, “The Splendid Table,” by host Lynne Rossetto Kasper. The interview was great fun and I appreciated the conversation about dining, family dinners, what his dinner table is like now, and his obsession with his Fitbit. You can read the transcript or listen to the interview by going here.

Flank Steak With Tarragon Green Beans

I love all the different colors of radishes this time of year.

I love all the different colors of radishes this time of year.

For seven years, I lived my life as a vegetarian. That said, it wasn’t until I grew old enough to listen to my body after a life-threatening illness that I realized that I really need to eat meat. (So apologies in advance to my vegetarian and vegan readers.) While I still have a mostly vegetarian diet, there are a couple of nights a week that meat is the main dish. Like the other evening.

When I was creating my grocery list and week’s menu of what I was going to make, I handed the June 2014 issue of Cooking Light to the Eater of the House and said, “Here, pick out your dinner.” I noticed he stopped at a couple of pages of “me” recipes, a bean dish, a farro salad, roasted halibut, and then he found it. “This,” he said, pointing to the picture of flank steak. “That’s what I want.”

I normally don’t cook beef that much outside of the occasional meatloaf and pot roast, and since we don’t have a grill at the moment, it would have to be broiled in the oven. No matter, the recipe looked delicious and I crossed my fingers for a successful meal.

This meal was beyond successful! Sometimes things in the kitchen just seem to come together like magic. After a long day, I made an easy rub for the meat and popped it under the broiler, trimmed the green beans and tossed them into boiling water, and made a nice salad with the above radishes and avocado. This definitely could be a Week Night Dinner, as there is very little prep and cooking involved and what takes the longest is waiting for the steak to finish cooking.

A few notes, the original recipe also had tomato bruschetta served alongside, which I included if you want to make. For the beans, hopefully your market carries the small containers of herbs, so you can buy a little amount, since you need a teaspoon or so. Also, I omitted the celery seed, I really don’t like that flavor. I couldn’t find Creole seasoning, so I used Cajun, which added a little kick. I thought since both were Louisiana-bred, wouldn’t it be the same?

The Eater of the House can be given full credit for this amazing dinner. In fact, I think he was patting himself on the back when he went back for thirds! He has declared it the best steak he’s EVER eaten! What cook could complain after a compliment like that?

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Flank Steak with Tomato Bruschetta
This recipe originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 3 ounces steak and 1 bruschetta)

2 teaspoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/4 teaspoon Creole seasoning
1 (1-pound) flank steak, trimmed
Cooking spray
2 cups cherry tomatoes
4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 small shallot, chopped
4 (1-ounce) slices whole-wheat French bread baguette
1 garlic clove, halved

Preparation
1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

2. Combine canola oil, paprika, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and Creole seasoning in a small bowl. Rub spice mixture evenly over steak. Place steak on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 4 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Place steak on a cutting board; let stand 5 minutes. Cut across the grain into thin slices. Thread tomatoes evenly onto 4 skewers; grill 5 minutes, turning once after 3 minutes. Remove tomatoes from grill.

3. Remove tomatoes from skewers; coarsely chop. Place tomatoes, 2 teaspoons olive oil, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, basil, and shallot in a small bowl, stirring to combine.

4. Drizzle bread slices evenly with remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil. Grill 30 seconds on each side or until toasted. Rub cut sides of garlic over one side of bread slices; top evenly with tomato mixture.

Tarragon Green Beans
1 pound trimmed green beans
2 quarts boiling water
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon finely chopped tarragon
1 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preparation
Add green beans to boiling water; cook 4 minutes. Drain. Stir in butter, tarragon, vinegar, celery seeds, kosher salt, and pepper.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week

world cupIt’s World Cup time, when country after country compete for the top prize in soccer. I am the farthest thing from a sports junkie; I pay attention to whether the Yankees are beating the Red Sox, I watch college basketball in the winter when I’m knitting, and I watch the Super Bowl for the half-time show and that’s about it. I even had to ask my friends how often the World Cup comes around? (One year? Two years? The answer is every four.) So when it comes to sports, I’m all about the food. I love being invite to or hosting a Super Bowl or Final Four party because that means lots of delicious snacks and food! And look what I found to celebrate the World Cup, a bracket of food per country!

Will Switzerland’s fondue beat out Ecuador’s Chulpichochos? Will England’s Yorkshire Pudding smoke out Italy’s Pasta Pomodoro? You’ll have to check in to find out!

The World Cup of Food

Mediterranean Kebabs

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The lilacs are finally in bloom! I could bury my nose in their wonderful scent all day long!

This week’s dish can’t even be defined as a recipe, it’s more like a set of instructions!

A few weeks ago I was going to book club and instead of a green salad, I wanted to do something that was a little bit out of the box, was delicious, and the most important thing, I had about 15 minutes to put it together! So I created these vegetable kebabs, which can be used as an appetizer or in place of salad for dinner. Veggies, a little bit of cheese, and the flavor of fresh basil, they even make for a wonderful for lunch! Once you have everything chopped and ready to go, it really is done in 15 minutes!

I made mine with chunks of European cucumber, a baby mozzarella ball, a piece of fresh basil, and grape tomato sliced in half. I topped with some salt and pepper and a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. I thought a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar could be a good addition, too. I kept the order the same and made two rounds on the skewer. The skewers I have are six-inches long, just the right size, since these aren’t going on the grill.

You can make these with pieces of meat (think salami, spicy ham), different veggies (red, yellow, and orange peppers would be great!), with or without cheese, even fruit. Think about what flavors will go with what vegetables. Basil is the perfect herb since it is flat. I can’t think of another herb that would work quite as well, can you?

I have a potluck dinner to attend later on this week and will be toting these along. I think the kebabs are going to be made a lot in the coming months—a no-cook meal, they are perfect for those evenings when it’s too hot to turn on the stove!

 

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MVK’s Endorsement of the Week
As I sat down wondering what I would endorse this week, my mind wandered to my adventures this past weekend. It’s garage sale season, and you will never know what kind of cookbooks you will find!

photo-coookbookI found this cookbook by local food writer, Andrea Chesman. I have a couple of her books and the recipes are always great. The book was in perfect condition and I paid $1 for it! (The price was .50, but since it was for the historical society, I said they could keep the change, big spender that I am!) So now that it is warmer weather, get out and check out some book sales! You may never know what gems you will find!

 

Roasted Asparagus: Two Ways

easterEaster always signifies to me the end of winter and the first real springtime meal of the year. With Easter so late this year, I’m already in full swing with the spring vegetables and recipes: radishes, baby beets, and asparagus. When I see California asparagus in March, I know spring has arrived. (To get local asparagus, I’ll have to wait until at least May!) With the traditional Easter dinner always a bit on the heavy side: ham, potato salad and/or sweet potatoes, I like to counter it with some roasted asparagus to signify the new season and to lighten up the meal!

These are two ways I roast asparagus that are easy and delicious. Hardly any fat and calories and true confession, I’ve been known to make a sheet of this for a solo dinner. Balsamic vinegar is always a wonderful addition to any dish, since a little goes a long way.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and the Easter Bunny is good to you! I am taking a week or two off to celebrate my birthday as well as take part in an exciting event (check out this week’s endorsement following the recipes)!

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Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic-Shallot Butter
This recipe originally appeared in the November 2002 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Make the butter ahead of time, if you like. Roast the asparagus and toss it with the butter just before serving.

Yield: 8 servings

3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 pounds asparagus spears
Cooking spray

Combine shallots, butter, vinegar, thyme, salt, and rind, stirring well with a whisk.

Preheat oven to 450°.

Snap off tough ends of asparagus. Arrange asparagus in a single layer on a jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray. Cover with foil; bake at 450° for 5 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes or until asparagus is crisp-tender. Pour butter mixture over asparagus, toss gently to coat. Serve immediately.

Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Browned Butter
This recipe originally appeared in the October 2013 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Toss roasted asparagus in browned butter, seasoned with soy sauce and a splash of balsamic vinegar, for a super easy side dish that’s big on flavor.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 5 spears)
Hands-on: 7 Minutes
Total: 25 Minutes

40 thick asparagus spears, trimmed (about 2 pounds)
Cooking spray
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons lower-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Arrange asparagus in a single layer on baking sheet; coat with cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 400° for 12 minutes or until tender.

3. Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat; cook for 3 minutes or until lightly browned, shaking pan occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in soy sauce and vinegar. Drizzle over asparagus, tossing well to coat. Serve immediately.

Note: Finish the asparagus just before serving dinner. Cooking the butter until it browns slightly gives the dish a nutty flavor; watch carefully, though, since it can burn easily.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week
three squaresThis week, I am endorsing myself! I have the wonderful opportunity to moderate a food discussion with author and food historian, Abigail Carroll, at this year’s Newburyport (MA) Literary Festival on April 26. The session is titled “The Invention of the American Meal” and we will discuss Abigail’s book, Three Squares, and the history of our American eating habits. I found her book a fascinating glance at history regarding the three square meals we eat every day.

Here is a link to the festival’s website, http://www.newburyportliteraryfestival.org. If you are in the area, I’d love to meet you in person! Hopefully I will return with a recap of the event, if all goes well!

Happy New Year! May Your 2014 Be Bright!

“Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come
Whispering, ‘it will be happier…'”
Alfred Tennyson

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After the ice storm.

I’ve never been one to be superstitious, but I am beginning to believe in the unlucky Number 13. While this year has had the highest of highs (trips to Florida, Newburyport, Maine, and New York City; a springtime visit from my friend, Kats, from Switzerland; hiking all over the state; and MVK’s collaboration with Cooking Light magazine), it also has had some incredible personal lows. A special thank you to my friend, Catherine, and the Eater of the House who have allowed me to keep on writing in the interim.

So cheers and Happy New Year! I, for one, am excited to turn the calendar to a new year. And on Wednesday, I am going to make a double batch of my black-eyed peas and collard greens that I posted last January for good luck, just in case!

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Good Luck Peas
Just omit the ham for a vegetarian version and it will taste just as good! Spinach or Swiss chard can be substituted for the collard greens.

2 teaspoons olive oil
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
½ medium onion, finely diced
3 cups of collard greens, chopped
1 14 oz. can black-eyed peas
1 ¼ cup chopped ham (optional and gluten-free)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Warm the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and onion and sauté until soft.

2. Add the collard greens and sauté until they are wilted.

3. Add the peas and ham, if using. Stir and turn heat to low. Add salt and pepper and serve!

Recipe Redux: Chris’s Chi Chi Beans

This past weekend, I got out of the kitchen and and into the car for a quick trip to Maine. After I announced last week that November was going to be a clean eating month, that was thrown out the window on the Piscataqua Bridge linking New Hampshire to Maine, and it became a bit of an overindulgent weekend of food and drink. I, thankfully, walked most of it off, but came home to a renewed promise to eat better this month!

Since I did no real cooking this past week, I thought I’d bring you an oldie but a goodie recipe I posted a couple of years ago. This is my go-to recipe when I am feeling poor in the pocket and in spirit. Vegan and gluten-free, it is healthy, quick to make, and easy on your wallet!

You can view the original post here.

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Chris’s Chi-Chi Beans
I usually serve this on its own, but if you want a little something extra, it is great served over whole wheat couscous to soak up the juice. And for a little bit more protein, serve it with either tofu or chicken.

• 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
• 2 cloves of garlic (or more if you prefer), minced
• 1 medium onion, diced
• 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
• One 14.5 oz. can (or roughly 2 cups) chi-chi (garbanzo, chickpeas), rinsed
• One 14.5 oz. can stewed tomatoes

Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the garlic and onion and cook until translucent. Add the carrots and cook for a couple of minutes until soft. Add the can of beans and stewed tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer and cook until the carrots are soft, about 10-12 minutes. If you find the liquid is evaporating, you can add a little bit of water or white wine.

Cook’s Notes:
When I went to pick out a can of stewed tomatoes, I didn’t realize there are many different varieties these days! I like the “original” flavor, one that has onion, celery, and bell peppers.     

Roasted Delicata Squash

Welcome to the month of November, which leads us into two months of food, food, and more food! After Halloween, I try to cool it a little bit on the sweets and carbohydrates of all sorts (fruit and alcohol included) and try to focus on real food, lots of sleep, and low stress (if any of that is obtainable). I always think eating high amounts of sugar, having higher than normal stress, and not getting enough sleep is a recipe of getting a cold. (No pun intended!) I have no scientific evidence to back up this theory, it’s just my own, but I’ll do anything to avoid getting a cold or the dreaded flu.

Each fall I always buy two delicata squashes with the intent of creating a nice stuffing for them. This never happens and I end up cooking them like I do butternut squash (in a shallow pan with a little bit of water), but frankly, I’ve never been impressed. The skins are thin, scraping out the squash is tedious, and the flavor is so-so. Not really worth the effort. But I recently saw this recipe where you roast the squash with the skin on, toss with some butter, onion, and garlic, and just roast. I am all about roasting veggies of all sorts this time of year, but this recipe is exceptional. I’ve already made it twice! The onion and garlic get sweet with the roasting and the squash gets soft yet crunchy and chewy in some parts. This recipe fit my current requirement for dinner: easy to make, but more importantly, healthy for all eaters and thoroughly delicious!

This was great served alongside roasted chicken. Two squashes made for one dinner, and it reheats well for lunch!

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Roasted Red Onions and Delicata Squash
Originally published in the October 2013 issue of Cooking Light magazine. 

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, sliced
2 (12-ounce) delicata squashes, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 (1-pound) red onion, cut into 12 wedges
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
Cooking spray
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Place a baking sheet in oven. Preheat oven to 475° (leave pan in oven).

2. Combine first 5 ingre­dients in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add squash and onion; toss gently to coat. Sprinkle vegetable mixture with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Carefully remove preheated pan from oven; coat pan with cooking spray. Arrange vegetable mixture in a single layer on pan. Bake at 475° for 20 minutes or until tender, turning once. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and chopped parsley.

Cook’s Note: I’ve made this recipe twice, once with honey and once with maple syrup. Both ways are delicious! And while I bought parsley specifically for this recipe, I completely forgot to add it, both times. It’s delicious even if you don’t have it on hand.