How to – Make your Own: Crunchy Ramen Noodle Salad

IMG_2578

Ahhh ramen noodles.

As cliche as it is, I fell in completely in love with them, followed by entirely sick of them in my first year of university. I bought cases and cases of chicken flavoured Mr. Noodle that year. Stuck in a dorm room, a kettle as my only cooking aide, it was the only way to get a hot meal unless you wanted haul your ass down to the student cafeteria. Which required getting dressed and looking ‘reasonable’.  Mr. Noodles it is.

FullSizeRender 21

Ramen is big business these days.  There are some incredible ramen houses scattered around the city, and they be fancy. And soooo delicious. Definitely not the Mr. Noodles of the early 00s.

FullSizeRender 25

But oh, that humble $0.39 package of ramen still has loads of potential. Especially when you toast it up with some almonds and throw ’em into a flavour packed salad.

FullSizeRender 28FullSizeRender 20

The toasting step will add an extra 10 minutes to the prep work here, but with little else to do, I wouldn’t recommend skipping it unless you really must. It adds SO much flavour. Good luck not snacking on the entire pan before it hits the salad bowl. Again, if you anticipate leftovers, reserve a handful of the ramen mixture and keep it in a separate container, tossing with the salad just before serving. It is a crunchy noodle salad after all.

FullSizeRender 31

The asian sesame dressing for this salad reminds me of our Asian Orzo Salad, which has always been a potluck favourite.  This newbie is about to join the potluck line-up, though! The edamame is a perfect source of vegetarian protein. If you’ve got leftovers and want to take them for lunch, throw another handful of edamame in to boost the protein so it’s ‘meal worthy’. An alternative protein source like chicken, tofu or shrimp will do the job too.

FullSizeRender 22

Toss it together and voila, GORgeous.

Eat alongside a piping hot bowl of Mr. Noodles.

Erin

IMG_2578

Crunchy Ramen Noodle Salad

Serves 6-8
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 10 minutes
Total time 20 minutes
Website Lightly adapted from Gimme Some Oven

Ingredients

  • 14 ounce bag of cabbage slaw
  • 1 cup frozen edamame (thawed)
  • 1 mango (peeled and chopped)
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • 2 - 2 ounce packages of ramen noodles (crumbled, flavour pack discarded)
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds

Asian Sesame Dressing

  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil

Note

This would be a terrific potluck salad. Bring the ramen/almonds in separate container and toss them in just before serving to maximize the crunch factor!

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Spread ramen noodles and almonds onto baking sheet. Bake for 5-7 minutes, stirring halfway through, until lightly browned (watch carefully over the last minute or two to avoid burning them). Allow to cool for 5 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, combine cabbage slaw, edamame, mango, green onions and once cooled, ramen noodles and almonds.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together ingredients for Asian Sesame Dressing. Pour over salad and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

How to: Slow Cooker – Daal

There is no shortage of slow cooker recipes popping up all over the place now that it’s fall. So why should you try this one? Because.

img_8747

And also, it was a “perfect on the first try” recipe. A simple, healthy, flavourful stew that tastes great right out of the slow cooker and even greater the next day for lunch.

img_8672

I tend to use my gigantic slow cooker in fits and starts. I find it does a great job of braising meat slow and low, but vegetables? Not so much.  In my experience, they get obliterated beyond recognition.  Sure, you can shorten the cook time. But then why use a slow cooker? Isn’t the idea to set it and forget it for the day? All this to say, since I seldom cook with meat at home, mine has been getting hauled out a couple of times a year at most. And I’ve decided, it’s just not enough to justify all of the valuable kitchen real estate it occupies.

So it’s been slow cooker testing mania all up in here.

img_8676

This recipe is a mash up of a slow cooker daal I found in The Best of Bridge Family Slow Cooker cookbook and my favourite stovetop daal recipe from Indian Cooking Unfolded by Raghavan Iyer. Guys. It’s really really good.

img_8684

I really like the combination of split peas and red lentils.  The lentils break down quite a bit more than the peas and give the daal a rich, thick texture.  If you’ve only got one or the other though, it’s all good.  Roll with it.  Fiddle with the spices if you like, too.  Add a pinch of cayenne for heat. Replace some of the chicken stock with coconut milk, or simply add a can of coconut milk and make it more of a soup.

When it’s done, jazz it up however you like.  Add fresh herbs (cilantro, parsley), a dollop of yogurt or sour cream or a squeeze of lime. Sprinkle on some toasted almonds or pine nuts or top with some cool, creamy avocado cubes.  It can be as humble or as fancy as you like.

Eat up, buttercups.

Erin

Slow Cooker Daal

Serves 6-8
Prep time 5 minutes
Cook time 6 hours
Total time 6 hours, 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried split yellow peas (well rinsed)
  • 1 cup red lentils (well rinsed)
  • 1 Small onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 796mL (28 oz) can of whole tomatoes (chopped roughly in the can with scissors)
  • 3 cups no salt added chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 2 teaspoons tumeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt (more or less to taste)

Directions

1. Add all ingredients to slow cooker, stir once or twice to combine. Set on low heat for 6-8 hours until split peas are cooked through but maintain their shape. Serve with rice, naan or something to soak up the delicious juices.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to: Make Your Own – Perfect Potluck Pasta Salad

img_8437

You want to know my super power?

Superior potluck skills.

Come now, don’t be jealy.

img_8435

It’s because of all the dang practice I get.  I work in a hospital setting on two separate hospital units, with two different teams. Once a week, each team organizes snacks for team rounds where team members rotate bringing the snack, and once or twice a month we also have a potluck over lunch for a special occasion or celebration.  Add to that, are the potlucks we occasionally have in the office I share with my dietitian buddies. So if my math is correct, that’s about 745 potlucks a year. Give or take.

img_8434

Not only do my contributions have to be crowd pleasers, I have to be crafty about the dishes I bring.  I cycle or take public transit to work, so they’ve gotta be compact. And jiggle proof.

This one is my no-brainer choice when I haven’t the time to be creative. 30 minutes and it’s done. Delicious.

The key to making any pasta salad a hit at a potluck is reserving some of the dressing to toss just before serving.  No one likes dry pasta. If you make your salad the night before and use all of the dressing, by the time you get to lunch the next day, all that precious moisture will be sucked up by the pasta.

I also love using a tiny pasta, like orzo, because it’s easy to serve onto a plate one-handed and a just a small spoonful will contain all the goodies.

Adding a head of chopped romaine (or iceberg – something hearty) will make it go a little farther and will lighten it up, too.  Keep the lettuce aside until just before serving, otherwise you’ll have soggy lettuce. And everyone will hate you. Jokes….sorta.

What do you all make for potlucks?! I’m looking for new inspiration. I still have 307 potlucks left this year.

Erin

Perfect Potluck Pasta Salad

Serves Makes aout 10 culls of salad
Prep time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups orzo pasta
  • 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes (halved or quartered)
  • 1 english cucumber (seeded and chopped)
  • 1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper (seeded and chopped)
  • ⅓ cup very thinly sliced red onions
  • 200g feta cheese (crumbled)
  • 10 kalamata olives (sliced)
  • 1 head romaine lettuce (washed and chopped)

Dressing

  • ⅓ cup white wine vinegar
  • ⅔ cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon liquid honey
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Directions

1. Prepare orzo pasta in salted water per package directions or until al dente (approximate 7 minutes). Drain and rinse orzo with cold water to stop the cooking process.
2. Meanwhile, add all the ingredients for dressing to a small bowl and whisk until well combined.
3. Toss orzo, chopped vegetables, feta cheese and ¾ of the dressing in a large bowl (once combined this can stay in your refrigerator overnight).
4. Reserve ¼ of the dressing and chopped romaine to toss with prepared orzo just before serving.

img_8438

How to: Make your own Short-Cut Pierogi with Potato and Caramelized Onion

I love a good kitchen shortcut.

Especially one that makes traditional pierogi so light and delicate, I can eat twice as many.

Guys. TWICE as many!

img_7566

The secret is pre-made wonton wrappers. If you’ve ever made real-deal pierogi, you’d know preparing, rolling and cutting the dough is at least half the battle.

The circular wonton wrappers look a bit more pierogi-like, but i couldn’t find them so triangle pierogi it is. Shockingly, they taste the same. ;p

img_7534

This recipe is lightly adapted from one of my favourite cookbooks – Bonnie Stern’s Friday Night Dinners. If I haven’t mentioned I love Bonnie Stern before, I will now. I love her. There.  She writes a terrific column in the National Post and I just love her food vibe. She uses fresh, often seasonal, high quality ingredients and simple cooking techniques to make her recipes just shine. Bright like a diamond.

These pierogi are a perfect example.  The humble potato and onion are transformed into perfect little pockets of savoury, sweet and smokey.

img_7537

The photo above is meant to show you my tear-free onion chopping technique! Set your chopping board up next the stove, turn on the exhaust fan, turn on a burner (no need to be cooking anything) and chop those babies to your heart’s content.  The heat and exhaust fan will draw away all of the offending fumes and your eyes will remain clear and bright throughout dinner prep! Booya.

img_7538 img_7541

Speaking of onions. Caramelizing them is just the bee’s knees isn’t it? Sometimes I’ll take a bag of onions and caramelize them on the weekend with nothing in particular planned for them.  I’ll use them throughout the week in sandwiches, salads, pastas, on pizza or whatever calls for a little extra some’n some’n. They make these pierogi.

img_7543

img_7546

Yukon gold potatoes have a beautiful, smooth buttery texture.  I used a large whisk to ‘mash’ them.

img_7551

Once you have a nice little work station prepped, you’ll be done in no time.

img_7554 img_7553 img_7556

Type-A much?

img_7561

Enjoy these.  They’re a damn delight.

Erin

img_7608

Short-cut Pierogi

Ingredients

  • 1 ½lb yukon gold potatoes (peeled and cut into chunks)
  • 6 Small onions (peeled and sliced)
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt (divided)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1 Large egg
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • Approximately 50wonton wrappers (400g package)

Directions

1. In a medium saucepan, cover potatoes in cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to simmer and cook for 30 minutes until very tender.
2. Meanwhile, in a deep skillet, heat canola oil over medium high heat. Add onions and ½ tsp salt. Stir occasionally as onions start to brown, scraping any brown bits off bottom of skillet as you go. If pan is dry, add 1 Tbsp water at a time. Cook for 20-25 minutes until onions are a deep brown colour.
3. Remove ½ cup browned onions from skillet and chop. Drain potatoes well and mash along with onions, butter, egg, remaining salt and pepper.
4. On a clean, dry surface lay out wonton wrappers (10-12 at a time; cover remaining ones with a slightly damp cloth while you work). Place 1½ tsp of potato filling in the centre of each wrapper. Dab a little water around edge of each wrapper and fold over to make a triangle. Press edges together to seal them. Transfer to parchment lined baking sheet. At this point, you can freeze them if desired.
Allow them to freeze on baking sheet and transfer to a freezer bag once frozen.
5. To cook pierogi, bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook in 2 batches for 4-5 minutes. In a separate skillet, reheat remaining onions. Transfer boiled, drained pierogi to skillet and toss gently to combine. Serve over your favourite baby greens alongside sour cream or greek yogurt.

How to: Healthy Side – Simple Brussels Sprout Slaw

IMG_2813

 

Simple is best, don’t you think?

When it comes to food and using quality ingredients, I am definitely on team KISS.

Recently, friends had me over for dinner (word up Amy and Gord!) and as we chatted and sipped on wine, I watched Gord casually prepare a simple side salad with finely chopped brussels sprouts.  It was perfectly elegant for a dinner party, yet simple enough for a week nighter.

IMG_2789

I’ve made a few more involved versions of this salad in the weeks since, but I’m always drawn back to the most basic version, using high quality ingredients.

Yup, really good extra virgin olive oil (or canola!) costs a little more, as does parmesan reggiano.  Pine nuts aren’t cheap either. But! These are what make a humble bowl of wee little heads of cabbage taste… *kissing the tip of my thumb and index finger*.

IMG_2795

The brussels sprout chopping is the only real work here, which took about 5 minutes for the ½ pound.

IMG_2806

Pine nuts are sweet and creamy and really delicious when toasted, and a couple of tablespoon won’t break the bank, either.  I’ve used toasted sliced almonds and walnuts for this salad, too.  Both really great alternatives.

As for a parmesan substitute, you could try pecorino romano or grana padano. Something hard, salty and sharp is the ticket.

IMG_2808

You’ll also notice the recipe calls for cold pressed canola oil. While the canola oil you may know and love is very very mild in flavour, a cold pressed canola oil can have an incredible range of flavours (as can olive oil) depending on where the seed is grown. I’ve done a couple of canola oil tastings and I’ve tasted everything from butter to grass to sesame seed to asparagus in the oils grown across Manitoba alone!

You may be able to find cold pressed canola oil at a specialty food shop near you, but you can also use a good quality olive oil in its place.

IMG_2809 IMG_2818

Enjoy,

Erin

Brussels Sprout Slaw

Serves 3-4 as a side
Prep time 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • ½lb brussels sprouts (about 12 medium, trimmed of any spotted leaves)
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • ½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1½ tablespoon cold pressed canola oil or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1½ tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon pepper

Note

This salad is best served within a couple of hours.  You can prep all of the ingredients up to a day in advance and toss with oil and lemon juice just before serving.  Leftovers can be spruced up with an additional splash of oil and lemon juice just before serving.

Directions

1. Cut each brussels sprout in half. While holding on to the stem end, slice crosswise very thinly.
2. In a dry frying pan, toast pine nuts over medium heat, stirring or tossing occasionally until lightly browned.
3. In a medium bowl toss brussels sprouts, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, oil, lemon and s&p until well combined. Serve within a couple of hours for best results.