Monthly Archives: December 2013

Soba Noodle Salad with Vegetables and Tofu

Soba noodles, also known as buckwheat noodles, are a traditional New Year’s food in Japan. It is thought that the length of the noodles symbolizes longevity in life, which of course is a good thing to hope for going into a new year. Aside from the length of the noodles, this dish may help contribute to a long life because it’s really good for you. I know a lot of people make various healthy eating resolutions starting January 1st and this recipe won’t derail you. Over the next few weeks I’m planning to feature a number of nutritious and lower calorie meals that will help you to achieve your resolutions. I’ll put the nutrition information at the bottom of the recipe. If there’s not nutrition info, more than likely you just don’t want to know (or my 15 month old son just wouldn’t go to bed so I didn’t have time to calculate everything, which is a distinct possibility these days)!

This dish is satisfying thanks to delicious sweet and spicy Asian flavors. The distinctive flavor of sesame oil is enhanced by the sweetness of brown sugar and orange juice, and spiced up with some chile paste, ginger, and garlic. The salad is served cold, but I really prefer cooked tofu so instead of “raw” tofu as called for in the original recipe, I seasoned and broiled it to crisp it up a little and add more flavor.

Soba Noodle Salad with Vegetables and Tofu

This salad contains tofu and long soba noodles for a long life. Other than cooking those, which requires minimal hands on time, this is a quick weeknight meal to put together. The salad veggies include napa cabbage, bean sprouts, and carrots and provide a nice crunch in contrast to the noodles and tofu. A bagged coleslaw mix could be substituted for the napa cabbage if you’re really in a rush. I’ll share another use for napa cabbage soon too so any leftovers don’t go to waste.

Soba Noodle Salad with Vegetables and Tofu

I want to wish all of The Dinner Pages readers a safe New Year’s celebration and a happy and healthy 2014! For this blog, which has only been around for 2 months, I hope to continue to bring you delicious, family friendly, and (mostly) healthy recipes. Let me know what you’d like to see more of and I will get cooking!

Soba Noodle Salad with Vegetables and Tofu

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Soba Noodle Salad with Vegetables and Tofu (adapted from Cooking Light Complete Meals in Minutes)

Yield: 4-5 servings

Dressing:

1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

2 tablespoons orange juice

1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic (or finely minced fresh garlic)

1 teaspoon chile paste with garlic

Salad:

1 package (12-14 ounces) firm or extra-firm tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes

nonstick cooking spray

salt and pepper

1 8-10 ounce package of soba noodles (can substitute whole wheat spaghetti)

half a head of napa (Chinese) cabbage (about 3-4 cups), thinly sliced

2 cups fresh bean sprouts

1 cup shredded carrot

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Directions:

1. Prepare the salad dressing by placing the first 9 ingredients (under dressing) in a small mixing bowl and combining with a whisk. Set aside.

2. To prepare the tofu, coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Place the cubes of tofu in a bowl and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste. Transfer the cubes to the baking sheet and broil on high for 15 minutes, or until lightly golden, turning the cubes over once halfway through.

3. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil then add the soba noodles and cook according to package directions, about 4 minutes. Drain the noodles, rinse in cold water, then drain again.

4. In a large bowl, combine the tofu, noodles, cabbage, sprouts, carrot, and cilantro. Top with the dressing and toss together to combine.

Nutrition Information:

For 1/4 of the salad: 371 calories, 9 grams of fat (calculated from myfitnesspal.com; all nutrition information is approximate)

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Asian Glazed Chicken Wings

This deliciously different game day recipe makes use of a really helpful appliance, the slow cooker. My husband and I were a bit slow on the uptake with regard to slow cookers. Honestly we bought one about 7 years ago, used it once or twice, and actually had it in our “donate” box until my son came along and all of a sudden, the slow cooker came in from the garage and we asked ourselves what we had been thinking by shunning it for all those years! So I was very excited when Slow Cooker Revolution Volume 2 was one of the lightning deals on Amazon recently and I managed to snag a copy for almost half price. This is the first recipe we’ve tried from this book and based on our success, I imagine there will be more to come.

asian glazed chicken wings

These glazed wings are a slight departure from your standard Buffalo wings. They’re sweet thanks to plenty of hoisin sauce but a bit of Sriracha packs just the right amount of spice. This recipe doesn’t lend itself to starting in the morning and leaving it in the slow cooker all day for dinner like some others do. You could do that, but it only needs to be in the slow cooker for about 3 to 4 hours so it’ll just spend most of the day hanging out if you start it before work. I think it lends itself better to a weekend treat. If you prep it after brunch you’ll have wings ready in plenty of time before kickoff.

asian glazed chicken wings

The technique was a little different from other slow cooker wings I’ve made in the past. We first coated the chicken wings with a flavorful dry rub and cooked them on low for a few hours. I expected them to be dried out from cooking them without added liquid, but that wasn’t the case at all. After that, we broiled them on a baking sheet for 10 minutes, until they were nice and crispy on the outside.

asian glazed chicken wings

I took them out from the broiler, brushed them with a hoisin-rice vinegar-Sriracha sauce and broiled some more, flipping halfway through to brush again. A final coat of sauce after broiling made sure the wings were sticky and delicious.

Serve with eggrolls for some themed appetizers or serve with rice for an anytime entree.

asian glazed chicken wings

Some notes:
-Using split wings will save you some time. You can certainly split whole wings yourself, like we did, but it would have been faster not to

-If you use Lee Kum Kee Hoisin sauce, it comes in an 8.5 ounce jar. Just use the whole jar, then you don’t need to measure, it’s close enough to a cup.

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Asian Glazed Wings (adapted with minimal changes from Slow Cooker Revolution Volume 2)

1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons granulated garlic

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 pounds split chicken wings

1 cup hoisin sauce

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce

nonstick cooking spray

green onions, for garnish (optional)

Directions:

1. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, ginger, garlic, salt, and pepper. Rub the mixture over the chicken wings and place them in a 5 1/2 to 7 quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 3 to 4 hours, until the chicken is tender and cooked through.

2. Adjust the top oven rack so it is about 10 inches from the broiler and heat the broiler. Place a metal rack on top of an aluminum foil lined baking sheet and spray with nonstick spray. Transfer the chicken wings to the rack and broil for about 10 minutes until crisp, flipping the wings halfway through. Discard the liquid in the crock pot.

3. While the chicken is broiling, combine the hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, and Sriracha in a bowl. After the first 10 minutes of broiling, remove the wings from the oven and brush with about 1/3 of the sauce. Return to the oven for another 5 minutes. Turn the wings over, brush with another 1/3 of the sauce and broil for 5 more minutes. Remove from the oven, brush with the remaining sauce. Garnish with green onions, if desired, and serve.

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Rice Salad with Dried Cranberries and Almonds

Baking is my first love in the kitchen. I really do enjoy cooking now, but originally it was out of necessity that I learned to cook since I couldn’t (or at least shouldn’t) eat cookies for dinner every night. So to be honest I was a bit disappointed when my husband was assigned to bring salad for his work holiday potluck. I usually use those types of events to bake a special treat and it generally goes over really well. But my husband didn’t want to make a big deal of it so I decided to use the opportunity to try a new salad recipe. I flipped through some of my favorite cookbooks for ideas and happened upon a recipe for rice salad. Now of course I’ve heard of pasta salad before but rice salad was new to me. It seemed perfect for this type of event though, something that can be made in advance, easily transported, and served at room temperature. So I decided to give it a shot. And I’m glad I did. This dish is a great last minute side dish for your holiday meal. The red from the cranberries and hints of green from the green onions and cilantro give it a festive appearance and the flavors are unusual but delightful, with a sweet and savory combination of ginger, coriander, and a little cayenne pepper for heat.

Rice Salad with Dried Cranberries and Almonds

Reading through the original recipe, I wasn’t so sure what to expect, since frankly, the recommended ingredients sounded a bit odd in combination. But somehow it works. The other thing I learned from this recipe was how to make a creamy and flavorful vinaigrette dressing in my food processor, which opens up a whole new world of unique salads. I’m sure I’ll come back to that technique in the future.

Rice Salad with Dried Cranberries and Almonds

Some notes:

-I used a rice cooker to prepare the basmati rice but you can make rice on the stove as well.

-Toast almonds by cooking them in a small skillet over medium heat for 6-8 minutes. Watch them closely because there’s a fine line between toasted and burned and it’s really easy to cross that line.

Rice Salad

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Rice Salad with Dried Cranberries and Almonds (adapted from How to Cook Everything)

Yield: 6 servings

4 cups cooked basmati rice

1 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted

1/4 cup chopped green onion

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

salt, to taste

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 shallot

1 tablespoon ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, combine the rice, cranberries, almonds, and green onion.

2. Prepare the vinaigrette by combining the olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper in a mini food processor or blender and process until it appears creamy. Then add the peeled roughly chopped shallot and process until fine. Taste the dressing to adjust the salt and pepper as needed. Pour the vinaigrette over the rice mixture.

3. Add the coriander, ginger, and cayenne, along with additional salt and pepper to taste, and fluff the rice to separate the grains and combine all the ingredients. Stir in the cilantro.

4. Serve at room temperature. This can be refrigerated for a day but should be brought back to room temperature before serving.

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Gingerbread Waffles with Eggnog Whipped Cream

Wait, can I give you one more gingerbread recipe for the year? These tasty waffles make a nice festive breakfast with delicious gingerbread aromas topped with lightly eggnog flavored whipped cream. The kitchen smelled like I had just baked gingerbread cookies after putting my waffle iron to work, and I didn’t even have to turn on the oven or get out my cookie cutters.

Gingerbread Waffles with Eggnog Whipped Cream

I started out by whisking together the dry ingredients, flour, sugar, baking powder, and the yummy gingerbread spices. To that I added the wet ingredients which included applesauce (could sub in pumpkin as well), eggs, milk, butter, vanilla, and a bit of molasses to really give it that gingerbread cookie touch. I cooked them on my waffle iron until the appliance signaled to me that it was ready and after a few rounds, we were good to go. Overall, very quick. No need to refrigerate the batter or anything like that. I’m pretty sure the batter would have been great for pancakes too and I plan to try that later as well–I’ll certainly update when I do.

Gingerbread Waffles with Eggnog Whipped Cream

I’ve been meaning to meld gingerbread and eggnog flavors since I went to the holiday lunch at the cafeteria at work and I got a gingerbread cookie but for dunking my choices were Coke Zero or eggnog. So I chose the eggnog (probably the only situation in my life where eggnog > Coke Zero) and dunked the cookie and really enjoyed the combo. So I brought it back for this recipe. For the whipped cream I combined 3 parts heavy whipping cream to 1 part eggnog, added in a little bit of sugar, as well as some ground nutmeg to give it that authentic eggnog spice and beat the mixture in my mixer until there were relatively stiff peaks formed. The eggnog flavor was definitely there but not overwhelming by any means and the flavored whipped cream negated the need for syrup on these waffles. Now go, enjoy your breakfast.

Gingerbread Waffles with Eggnog Whipped Cream______________________________
Gingerbread Waffles with Eggnog Whipped Cream (adapted from Gingerbread)

Yield: depends on your waffle iron. I made 12 square waffles with mine, serves 3-4

For the waffles:

1 cup all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

3 large eggs

1 1/4 cups whole milk

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 tablespoons molasses

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the whipped cream:

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup eggnog

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

powdered sugar, for garnish (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat the waffle iron on the highest setting.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices.

3. To the dry ingredients, add the applesauce, eggs, milk, butter, molasses, and vanilla. Stir together until just combined. The batter might still be slightly lumpy.

4. Pour onto waffle iron to cook. The amount varies by iron, approximately 1 to 1 1/2 cups of batter at a time.

5. Cook until the iron signals it is ready, about 4 minutes. Carefully remove the waffle from the iron.

6. For the whipped cream, combine the whipping cream and eggnog in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium to high heat until soft peaks form. Then add the sugar and nutmeg and continuing beating until there are stiff peaks.

7. Top the waffles with powdered sugar, if desired, and serve with eggnog whipped cream.

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Gingersnap Meatballs

Did you get too many gingersnaps at your cookie exchange? Did you bake the White Chocolate Dipped Ginger Cookies but not dip them in the chocolate yet? Do you just love gingersnaps and their spicy tangy flavor? Gingersnap meatballs are fantastic year round but they’re an especially good use of leftover ginger cookies around the holidays, even the slightly stale ones at the bottom of your cookie exchange container.

Gingersnap Meatballs

This recipe really is one of my favorites. I’m not a huge meat eater, but this is one of those dinners that I crave. How much do I love this? The night before I went into the hospital to give birth to my son, what did I do? I should have slept. But no, instead I made a big batch of these meatballs to freeze for a treat on one of the (many) nights I was too exhausted from my newborn to cook. Granted in my 9 month pregnant state I’ll admit I ate quite of few of them before freezing but anyway, they’re that good.

Gingersnap Meatballs

The meatballs are fairly standard to start with, ground beef, minced onion, bread crumbs (I use panko), salt, pepper, and some lemon juice and water. I browned them lightly in a skillet then removed them. They still get more cooking time later so they were still a touch pink inside.

Gingersnap Meatballs

The amazing part of these meatballs is their sauce. It’s almost like eating candy! The gingersnap crumbs and brown sugar caramelize and become a thick delicious, almost syrupy, sauce. Combined with the pan drippings from the browned beef, the sauce is unforgettable. After letting the meatballs simmer in the sauce for 15 minutes, they, too, become delightfully sweet. I like to serve these meatballs over pasta as a nice plain contrast to their sweetness. This recipes doubles well, if you want to freeze some for later…that is, if you can keep yourself from eating the leftovers.

Gingersnap Meatballs

A few notes:

-I use panko bread crumbs because they are dairy free. Other plain bread crumbs would be fine as well

-Save time by mincing the onion in a mini food processor. Since you have to grind up the gingersnaps anyway, you’re not adding extra dishes to wash

-It can be a bit challenging to find dairy-free gingersnaps at the store. Check the organic foods section; I usually have better luck there. Or just make your own…

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Gingersnap Meatballs (adapted from The Encyclopedia of Creative Cooking)

Yield: about 25 1-inch meatballs (serves 4)

1 pound lean ground beef

3/4 cup panko bread crumbs

1 medium onion, minced fine

2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided

2 tablespoons water

4 tablespoons margarine or shortening

2 1/2 cups beef broth

1/2 cup light brown sugar

3/4 cup gingersnap crumbs (approximately 15 gingersnaps)

Directions:

1. In a large bowl combine the beef, bread crumbs, onion, salt, pepper, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and the water. Form into 1-inch meatballs.

2. In a large skillet, heat the shortening on medium heat. Add the meatballs and cook until lightly browned and almost cooked through, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from the skillet.

3. To the pan drippings in the skillet, carefully add the beef broth and remaining tablespoon of lemon juice (there may be steam) and gently scrape the bottom of the pan to combine the drippings with the liquids. Once it comes to a boil, add the sugar and gingersnap crumbs and stir until combined.

4. Return the meatballs to the skillet and cook, covered, for 10 minutes. Then stir gently and simmer uncovered for another 5 minutes. Serve over pasta.

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Red Curry Peanut Noodles

Mmmmmm…peanut butter. It is really good on everything! So clearly peanut noodles are amazing, I mean, pasta plus peanut butter…what could be bad? I found this recipe in the 2009 Food & Wine Cookbook and was intrigued by the addition of red curry paste to classic peanut noodles. After making it, I was pleased to see that it worked really well. The curry paste added a little bit of spice to this dish but with the amount I used, I wouldn’t really call this a spicy meal. If spice is your thing, you might want to add more curry paste, crushed red pepper, or Sriracha to spice it up. I added shredded chicken to the noodles to make this more of a meal than a side. Using a supermarket rotisserie chicken saved time and made this a quick weeknight dinner, which I really needed, since I had to use the time I saved that night to make Peppermint Blondies for my son’s teacher. If you prefer to make a vegetarian dish, tofu would work well instead of chicken, or just enjoy the peanut noodles on their own. They’re supposed to be served cold but I love them hot as well!

Red Curry Peanut Noodles

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Red Curry Peanut Noodles (adapted from Food & Wine Annual Cookbook 2009)

Yield: 4 servings

3/4 pound spaghetti (I used a mixture of whole wheat and regular)

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon red curry paste

1/3 cup lower sodium chicken broth

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, divided

kosher salt, to taste

1 cup shredded chicken

2 green onions, white and green parts thinly sliced

1 cup matchstick carrots

1/3 cup coarsely chopped salted roasted peanuts

Directions:

1. Boil a large pot of salted water. Once it is boiling, add the spaghetti and cook according to package directions, until it is al dente. Drain the pasta and rinse under cold water.

2. In a food processor (a 2 cup mini food processor is large enough), pulse together the peanut butter, lime juice, red curry paste, broth, and 1/4 cup cilantro until pureed. Season with salt, to taste.

3. In a large bowl, add the drained and rinsed spaghetti to the chicken, onions, and carrots. Mix in the sauce and toss to combine.

4. Garnish with the remaining cilantro leaves and the chopped peanuts.

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White Chocolate Dipped Ginger Cookies

I love cookies exchanges and don’t really know why they just happen around the holidays. I’d be just as happy to swap cookies in July as December, but I guess just being part of the food blogger community I’m swapping ideas and recipes year round, right?

This weekend I attended a cookie swap at my neighbor’s house. It was wonderful. There were more than a dozen varieties of cookies and holiday sweets to sample and great people to socialize with. I left with a whole bunch of cookies to share and some new plans for recipes to try in the future. My contribution were these White Chocolate Dipped Ginger Cookies.

White Chocolate Dipped Ginger Cookies

As you know, I spend a fair amount of time checking out cookbooks and the internet for recipe ideas. This time of year so many food blogs have posts dedicated to holiday cookies and I just bookmarked and pinned everything that looked good. This one stood out.

I’ve always loved spice cookies this time of year. Don’t tell anyone but I prefer them to chocolate. The slightly tangy flavor of the combination of these spices is one I really enjoy. I liked these cookies for the exchange because not only were they fitting for the season, but they looked like they would hold up well to be transported to my neighbor’s home then exchanged with the other guests. The recipe makes enough to share (and then some) so I didn’t need to worry about doubling it in order to have enough. Not to mention they just look so pretty after being dipped in white chocolate. The cookies are soft but not crumbly and the white chocolate adds the perfect amount of sweetness and is a nice contrast to the spices. Is it okay to admit I took a few of my own cookies home from the cookie swap?

White Chocolate Dipped Ginger Cookies

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White Chocolate Dipped Ginger Cookies (adapted with minimal modifications from Brandy’s Baking)

Yield: 6-7 dozen cookies

2 cups granulated sugar, plus more for rolling

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

2 eggs

1/2 cup molasses

4 cups all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons baking soda

3 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

2 packages (each with 10-12 ounces) white chocolate chips

1/4 cup shortening

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sugar and oil. Then beat in each egg followed by the molasses.

3. Combine the dry ingredients, flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl, then add gradually to the bowl of the mixer with the wet ingredients and mix well.

4. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls. Roll each ball in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets (though I used silpats) and bake for 12-15 minutes until the cookies are golden brown in color and the cookie springs back when lightly touched. Cool on wire racks.

5. In a large microwave safe bowl, melt the white chocolate chips and shortening. Stop after every 30 seconds to stir the mixture and ensure it doesn’t burn. It should take 1 1/2 to 2 minutes to be smooth and melted.

6. Dip the cookies halfway into the melted chocolate, allowing excess to drip off. Place the cookies on waxed paper or on silpats until the chocolate is set.

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