Cold Sesame Noodles in Spicy Peanut Sauce

Cold Sesame Noodles in Peanut Sauce

Warm weather meals and entertaining call for easy, make-ahead dishes that are light and tasty. I came across this recipe on the holidaykitchen.tv YouTube channel and made a few changes to suit our tastes. It is a good alternative to regular pasta salad as it doesn’t have any mayonnaise.

PS: Did you know that noodles are symbolic of longevity in China? It is considered inauspicious to cut a strand, and is traditionally served in as long a piece (strand?) as possible, especially on New Year’s Day.

Cold Sesame Noodles in Spicy Peanut Sauce

Cold Sesame Noodles in Peanut Sauce

(Serves 3-4)

  • 2 scallions / green onions
  • 1 clove garlic (grated)
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil (strongly recommend using this as it gives a fantastic flavor, but feel free to substitute)
  • 1 Tbsp peanut oil
  • 1 tbsp red-wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp (or to taste) red chilli flakes
  • Hot sauce (Sriracha / chilli-garlic sauce) to taste
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 6-8 oz of dry long pasta (spaghetti / angel hair / chinese noodles)
  • 1 cup broccoli florets (lightly salted & steamed & drained well) – optional
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots – optional
  • 1/2 cup shredded chicken / steamed shrimp (optional)
  • 1/3 cup peeled, seeded & finely chopped cucumber – optional
  • cilantro, crushed roasted peanut, toasted sesame seeds for topping

1) Cook the noodles according to package directions. Rinse in cold water and drain completely. Allow to cool completely.

2) Add all ingredients to a small blender jar and process till smooth & creamy.

3) Toss with cold noodles, broccoli & carrots, and chicken/shrimp (if using) and set aside for an hour or two for all the flavors to meld.

4) Divide into serving bowls and top with chopped cucumber, crushed peanuts, a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds & cilantro.

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Easy Ice-Cream Cake

Memorial Day is around the corner – a day for honoring American veterans and doing our patriotic duties. Started three years after the Civil war ended in 1868, it was the chosen day to place flowers at the graves of those who died in the war. Originally called Decoration Day, it is believed that May 30th was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country. Only in 1971 did Congress  nominate the last Monday in May to be recognized as Memorial Day, and expand the honor to all soldiers who died in American wars.

Flags & wreaths at tombstones in Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day 2011.  (Pic: military.gov)

Flags & wreaths at tombstones in Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day 2011.
(Pic: military.gov)

The first Memorial Day ceremony was held at Arlington National Cemetery and small American flags were placed at each grave. This tradition continues to date and has been adopted elsewhere too.

You can read more information on the U.S. Department of Veterans website.

It is also the day for parades, picnics and barbecues with family and friends, shopping, and the opening of pool season. This week’s recipe can be used through the year. Easy and adaptable, it can be made on the cheap too. (Have you seen the price of Ice-Cream cakes at your local store?!?!) Birthday parties, graduations, family gatherings, sleepovers, play dates …… I must warn you that the never ending stream of kids through your door over the next few warm months will love visiting you. Plus the fact that you can make it a week ahead of your event and freeze it makes it even more divine.

Easy Ice-Cream Cake

Ice-Cream Cake

(Serves 8-12)

  • 2 (8-inch) round cakes of your choice (baked and cooled completely)
  • 1 gallon ice-cream of your choice (softened & stirred)
  • sliced fruit / coarsely crushed cookies (optional)
  • jelly / berry sauce / whipping cream / Magic Shell – for layering & frosting
  • cherries / sprinkles / candy – for decorating
  • 1 deep 9-inch springform (preferred) or regular round pan
  • large freezer-safe serving platter
  • plastic wrap

Ice-Cream Cake

1) Line the bottom and sides of your 9-inch pan with a double layer of plastic wrap so that the edges come over the sides of the pan.

2) Place one round cake in the center and poke holes over the top using a chopstick or fork.

3) Pour half the softened ice-cream on top and over the sides of the cake and smoothen to make it level. (If you like jam or berry sauce, pour on the cake first before adding ice cream).

4) Arrange a single layer of sliced fruit or crushed cookies on top (if using).

5) Gently drape the wrap over the ice cream (or cover with a freezer safe plate) and freeze for about 2 hours.

Ice-Cream Cake

6) Remove pan from freezer and unwrap. Place the other round cake over the first layer and poke holes again.

7) Pour the remaining ice-cream on top and around the sides and smoothen again. Make sure the top is flat.

8) Gently cover again and refreeze for another 2 hours. or overnight.

9) To plate & serve: remove pan from freezer and let it sit on the counter for a few minutes.

10) Release the latch on the springform pan and lift the cake out holding the edges of the plastic wrap. Unwrap from the bottom and place on your serving platter. (For a regular pan, run a knife under hot water and gently run it around the inside edge of the pan to release the cake.)

11) Decorate with Magic Shell or whipping cream and top with cherries / berries and sprinkles.

TIP: For smooth and easy cutting, run or dip a knife under warm water and slice.

If you have a larger crowd to serve, you can follow the same method with a rectangular 9X13 cake. Just bake the cake as per instructions and cool completely (or use store bought). Trim the edges by a 1/4 inch on all sides and gently slice across to make two 9X13 layers. Place one sheet cake back in the same pan that is lined with a double layer of plastic wrap. Follow the remaining instructions as above. When ready to serve, cut into squares.

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

Last weekend, I attended a Cast Party for a dance I did at our local Indian association event. While the piece itself was small, it was so much fun going to practices, picking out outfits, and dressing up for the ‘big show’. The entire segment involved almost 70 people – men, women & kids. A lot of kids!!

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

For many years, I had planned on making candy-melt Monarch butterflies that I had seen in a cake decorating book, but never got around to it. I figured it might be a good technique to use for fall cupcake decorations. Considering that there would be dozens of kids at the party, my reasoning was that no matter how the end result would be, the kids would devour them. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly these decorations came together. I made the candy leaves one afternoon, and baked and decorated the cupcakes the day of the event. It’s easy enough that the kids can help – my 10 year old did. Suffice to say that the first of three boxes of cupcakes was emptied out even before dinner was served!

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

ITEMS NEEDED:

  • Candy Melts in colors of choice
  • Design printed on paper
  • Wax paper for piping candy
  • Cookie Sheets
  • Piping bag with fine tip [OR] sturdy ziplock bags
  • Toothpick (to fill in small spots)
  • Metal spatula [OR] wide knife to lift the candy leaves

STEPS:

1) Make copies or free-hand sketch the design you want onto white paper.

2) Place on a flat, moveable surface (like a cookie sheet or sturdy chopping board) and top with wax paper. Once in position, tape down into place.

3) In a small bowl, microwave a handful of Candy Melts according to package directions till completely melted and runny.

4) Pour into the piping bag / ziplock bag (make a tiny snip at the corner for the candy to flow) and using a slow and steady hand, pipe over the designs.

5) Allow to harden – about 10 minutes.

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

As you can see in the picture above, I used a piping bag. The tray on top has the full outline piped in. The one on the bottom has only the ‘veins’ piped in. You will see below how these give two different effects.

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

6) In another small bowl, melt a handful of leaf color candy melt chips and pour into another bag. Pipe over the leaf designs and make sure to fill in the entire design. Go over the back of the ‘veins’ and make sure that all areas are covered.

(While you do not want clumps of candy, don’t worry about being super neat. In the finished stage, this will be the bottom of the leaf and will not show. Of course, if you plan on making the leaves stand up where both front and back will be visible, then take the time to smooth out the candy. Work in small batches to keep it flowing easily.)

7) Set the finished cookie trays aside to harden – about 30 minutes (depending on how thick you spread the candy). Alternately, stick them in the fridge or freezer for about 10 minutes to harden up faster.

8) When set, gently slip a spatula under the candy leaf – it should slide right out – and place on top of your completely cooled and frosted cake.

Cupcakes with Candy LeavesCupcakes with Candy Leaves

INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE HERSHEY’S KISSES ACORNS:

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

ITEMS NEEDED:

  • Nutter Butter Bites (Peanut Butter Sandwich Mini Cookies)
  • Double number of Hershey’s Kisses (unwrapped)
  • Mini chocolate chips
  • Few Candy Melts to use like glue

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

1) Split the mini cookies and remove the filling (above). Lay them all in a plate, right side down. (Alternately, you can just use the cookies whole without splitting them up.)

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

2) Melt a few Candy Melts and pour into bag for piping (or use the leftover bag from the candy leaves). Place a small dot on a few cookies.

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

3) Quickly place the Kisses on top of the cookie and press down gently. Work in small batches, and make sure the candy melts do not ooze out from under the Kisses. Do not disturb them for about 10-15 minutes, till firm.

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

4) Now flip the cookies right side up and dab with another small dot of candy melt. Quickly top with a mini chocolate chip and press down gently. Set on plate to harden completely – another 10-15 minutes. (The chips might slide away from the center if the candy melt is too runny. Make sure to move it back to place as it cools.)

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

I used box cake mix & frosting – Yellow cake (my favorite!), Devil’s Food, Caramel Apple Frosting, Cinnamon Bun frosting, and plain chocolate frosting. I made a total of 4 boxes, and about 75 cupcakes.

Mango Pudding

Mango Pudding

Here’s a dessert that I’ve made dozens of times and it has always brought rave reviews. Thanks to my aunt Uma for the recipe. Super easy to whip together, Mango Pudding can be made a day or two ahead, and will keep refrigerated for a couple days if covered tightly. This is a great dish to take for pot-luck meals as it travels well; no sloshing and spilling on your party outfit :)).

Mango Pudding

Mango Pudding

Mango Pudding

(Makes 35 1/3-cup servings; approx 12 cups total)

  • 3 cups water
  • 3 packets unflavored gelatin
  • 8 oz plain cream cheese (softened)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 (30 oz) mango pulp can – [available at most Indian grocers]
  • 8 oz Cool Whip (thawed)
  • saffron, cardamom powder, almonds/pistachio to garnish (optional)

Mango Pudding

1) Boil 3 cups water on the stove and stir well to completely dissolve 3 packets gelatin in it. Cool till luke warm – about 10 minutes.

2) Meanwhile, in a large round bowl (at least 4 quart/4 liter capacity), add the cream cheese and beat with a hand blender till smooth.

Mango Pudding

(Yes, I know the photo shows cream cheese & sugar together. You could do that too :).)

3) Add the sugar and blend with the cream cheese till light and fluffy, and well incorporated.

4) Add the mango pulp and CoolWhip – a little at a time – and beat well till no lumps remain. Scrape down the sides if necessary and mix well with the sugar-cheese mixture.

Mango Pudding Mango Pudding

5) Now slowly add the cooled gelatin in batches and make sure to thoroughly mix it with the rest of the ingredients. This step is important for the entire dish to set.

Mango Pudding

6) Pour into a 3-quart serving dish or into individual serving cups and chill till set, at least 6 hours or overnight.

7) Garnish with more Cool Whip, chopped nuts or saffron before serving.

TIPS: Do not use hot gelatin water as the rest of the ingredients will change consistency. Make sure to add a little pulp at a time while beating or else the cream cheese will ‘ball’ and leave lumps. Mix the gelatin well with the rest of the ingredients for consistent consistency. If bubbles form while transferring into a serving dish, they will set and look weird (in my opinion – but then, I’m finicky like that!) Pour gently or spoon the mixture into your serving dish and shake out the bubbles if you see them. Garnish only after the pudding has set.

While this looks like a lot of steps, it is surprisingly easy to make and is totally worth the effort. Hope you enjoy this pudding, and leave some feedback on how it turns out.

Creamy Guava-Coconut Popsicles

Creamy Guava-Coconut Popsicles

A week into summer break, and I’ve already heard “Mom, can we go to the pool?”, “Mom, can we go get ice-cream?”, and “I’m Bored!!” more times than I can take. I had my 10-year old make a list of all the things he would like to do for fun over the next two months, and making popsicles was one of the first few items. We’re checking off one item on the list each day, and yesterday happened to be the day we pulled out the popsicle molds from the basement. But let me be honest; I foresee many days where screen time is going to be my best friend :).

IMG_0042  (Mom’s ‘not-so-little’ helper)

 

I got this paleta Latin American popsicles that are either cream or juice mixed with fruit – recipe several years ago from my friend Nellie, and had really enjoyed the taste. I meant to share it here earlier, but had misplaced the hand written scrap of paper. After looking everywhere, I found it folded and tucked inside one of my many recipe books and binders. One of my most favorite recipes, these are creamy and just sweet enough. I’ve been inspired to use this basic recipe to substitute other fruits, and will update here once (if) my experiments are successful.

IMG_0043 IMG_0044

 

 

(Guava paste can be found in the Hispanic food section at the grocery store.)

Creamy Guava-Coconut Popsicles

Creamy Guava-Coconut PopsiclesCreamy Guava-Coconut Popsicle

(Makes 15-17 popsicles, about quarter cup each)

  • 1 (15 oz) can coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 (15 oz) can condensed milk
  • 10-12 oz guava paste

1) Chop about a quarter of the guava paste into small pieces and drop into the bottom of the popsicle molds.

2) In a large blender jar, add the coconut milk, cream, milk, cornstarch, condensed milk, & chunks of the remaining guava paste. Blend till well mixed, but not frothy.

3) Pour into the popsicle molds, add handles and freeze for atleast 4-6 hours.

4) To remove popsicles, run the bottom & sides of the mold under warm water for a few seconds and slide the ice cream out.

NOTE : If using dixie cups, place them on a cookie tray or plate and then fill them according to instructions. Freeze on the cookie tray for about an hour. Then insert the popsicle sticks. This will help keep the sticks straight as they freeze for several more hours.

Spicy Cajun Pasta

Spicy Cajun Pasta

 

If there’s one thing I like almost as much as good food, it’s a good book. I didn’t get much reading in the past few months, and the list I keep on my phone kept growing and growing. Finally, I decided to put a few books on hold at the library, and as luck would have it, I got all five at the same time! Three of them kept me engrossed enough that I’ve neglected  chores around the house and emptied out the freezer come dinner time. The culprits for the big gap in posts on this blog are I Never Promised You A Rose Garden by Joanne Greenberg, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed, and Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (more info below).

One of the books I just finished is a 2011 National Book Award winner titled Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward. Set in rural Mississippi in the days just before and right after Hurricane Katrina, motherless teens deal with a drunk dad, poverty, hunger, uncertainty, birth, death, and the fury of the Hurricane. Yet, love and tenderness is evident through the book – between siblings, parent, pet, and friends – in unconventional ways. Each and every character – from the protagonist Esch to the dog China – is powerfully, yet beautifully described by Jesmyn Ward. The novel culminates in a chapter where the family is caught in the storm surge from the Hurricane, and it gave me the chills. I highly recommend reading this book.

Thoughts of Hurricane Katrina led to thoughts of spicy Cajun food. Since my husband has been making Sunday night dinners for the last few years, my request this week was for his spicy Cajun pasta. He has looked up recipes online, but this is his own version. (Adapted from http://www.kevinandamanda.com)   Enjoy! It’s delicious!!

Spicy Cajun Pasta

 

Spicy Cajun Pasta

(Serves 6-7)

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 large onion (chopped)
  • 1 extra large tomato
  • 1 (12oz) packet Aidells Habenero & Green Chilli Chicken Sausage (OR) about 12-16 oz smoked sausage of choice (slice into rings) *
  • 3 cups chicken broth / water
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tbsp cajun seasoning
  • salt to taste
  • 16oz penne pasta (cooked, rinsed and drained)
  • 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese
  • sliced green onions to garnish

1) Heat oil in a wide, heavy bottomed pan with lid.

2) Add minced garlic and saute till golden and fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3) Add onions and saute till transparent.

4) Add tomato and saute for a few seconds. Cover lid and cook on medium -high till soft, and onion-tomato mixture blends together.

5) Add red pepper flakes and the sausage, cream & broth and bring to a boil.

6) Simmer 5 minutes till flavors meld. Add pasta and stir well. Season with salt to taste.

7) Heat thoroughly, and serve topped with some cheese and sliced green onion.

*NOTE : You may substitute the sausage with red, yellow, and green peppers to make a vegetarian version of the recipe.